Thursday, November 25, 2004

Reasons to Give “Conservative” Thanks

By Nathan Tabor

Thanksgiving is the time of the year when families and friends traditionally gather together for fellowship and food. Turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, candy yams and all the delicious pies — consuming these dishes is the centerpiece of the day. We will sit around and eat until we can’t eat any more. One nice rarity about this holiday is the fact that corporations haven’t commercialized it … yet.

Thanksgiving is also a time to reflect on the past year and all that we have to be grateful to God for. Each of us could talk about many personal things and how our lives have been changed or improved. I encourage you to share these at the dinner table with your family and friends.

I also believe there are a number of other things for which we should be thankful. Here’s just a small sampling of some good things that have happened in 2004.

For starters, moral values carried the day in the political area, with potentially sweeping ramifications. George W. Bush, a man of sincere faith, ethics and integrity, will serve as President of the United States for four more years with a clear mandate to govern. Republicans also added to their majorities in the Senate and the House. Hopefully, with this additional margin of control, we will be able to confirm more principled, conservative judges to the Federal court bench.

This was also the year that the Democratic National Convention nominated two archliberal Senators: John Kerry as their candidate for President and John Edwards as his running mate. This historic blunder truly shows how out of touch the DNC is with the average American voter.

In South Dakota, underdog challenger John Thune defeated incumbent Senator Tom Daschle, the Democrats’ obstructionist Minority Leader. This upset victory not only weakens the Democrats in the Senate. It also sends the message to other out-of-touch liberal incumbents that they too can be beat.

Speaking of elections, we should note with both satisfaction and relief that the vaunted al-Qaeda terrorists, for all their bluster and threats, were unable to deliver another blow to America to disrupt our political process. Domestically, America has been safe and secure from terrorist attacks throughout 2004.

Moreover, on the cutting edge of our domestic Culture War, eleven states voted to add Constitutional amendments stating that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. The liberal media pundits howled in disbelief, but the overwhelming majority of average Americans has spoken loud and clear: gay marriage is an aberrant idea whose time definitely has not come.

Similarly, the pro-life movement was given a building stone for future legal arguments when Scott Peterson was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his own unborn child. This verdict is a landmark decision, which sets a huge precedent for future criminal cases involving the personhood of the pre-born child.

Internationally, American soldiers liberated Iraq from the brutal tyranny of Saddam Hussein and eventually found the once-feared dictator hiding in a spider hole in the ground. The women of Iraq are still waiting for Patricia Ireland of NOW to thank President George W. Bush for stopping the rapes and other atrocities they had been experiencing under Hussein. They shouldn’t probably hold their breath.

I personally believe that we should all be forever thankful for the courageous men and women of the United States military who have given their lives to secure our freedom and to spread liberty abroad. We should also pray for those who are currently serving in foreign danger zones, as well as their family members who have sacrificed immensely.

Moving to outer space, 2004 was the year when the United States of America landed an unmanned vehicle on Mars. The potential impact of this feat on science could be astonishing over the years to come.

This year the most beloved and admired President of 20th Century was laid to rest. Ronald Reagan’s vision and courage are responsible for where the conservative movement is today. The people living under communistic rule around the world saw the Soviet Union’s “evil empire” crumble under Reagan’s principled leadership. From the United States to the rest of the world we are all thankful for Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s legacy.

Mel Gibson received thanks from Christians for his selfless act. He produced a self-funded movie that the Hollywood elite blackballed and predicted would fail miserably. Instead, The Passion of the Christ was a box office blockbuster, as people all across America rushed to the theaters to see it.

Finally, President George W. Bush summed up the true meaning of Thanksgiving perfectly in his most recent Saturday radio address. After delivering his own list of blessings, Bush said: “On Thanksgiving Day, we acknowledge that all of these things, and life itself, come from the Almighty God.”

Copyright © 2004 by Nathan Tabor

Nathan Tabor is a conservative political activist based in Kernersville, North Carolina. He has his BA in Psychology and his Master’s Degree in Public Policy. He is a contributing editor at Contact him at

Monday, November 22, 2004

Oldspeak: Did We Have to Destroy Fallujah to Save It?

By Wayne Lusvardi

"Those who control the slogans of the past, control the present"

(George Orwell)

As a Viet Nam veteran, I am compelled to respond to many of the clich‚-ridden letters to newspapers and emails to websites from those on the political Left who, in the face of the TV images of the destruction in Fallujah, have tried to revive the mantra of the Viet Nam war -- "we had to destroy the village to save it" -- by posing the question: "did we have to destroy Fallujah and its religious shrines to save it?" Many of those raising this question don't know the history of Iraq, much less that of Viet Nam.

"We had to destroy the village to save it"

The phrase "we had to destroy the village to save it" is attributed to an unnamed U.S. military officer during the Viet Nam War. The phrase "we had to destroy the village to save it" is most associated in the public's mind with the court martial of U.S. Army Lieutenant William Calley for atrocities of the U.S. military in the village of My Lai where 500 civilian lives were lost. Trying to stick this slogan on the recent Fallujah battle in Iraq is an unwarranted conclusion for many reasons.

"Bomb my house please"

As recently reported by web journalist Michael Totten in an aptly titled article "Bomb My House...Please," one U.S. soldier has recently e-mailed his father from Iraq that: "...the refugees (are) telling us where their houses are and asking us to bomb them because the muj (muhajadeen) have taken them over." Unlike Viet Nam, reportedly many Iraqi people want the U.S. to bomb the thugs who have taken over their homes, mosques, and cities (See here). The inverted moral compass of many on the political Left misplaces the blame for destruction of mosques on the U.S. and not on those heinous killers who put religious shrines and innocents in harms way.

"Since Bush broke Iraq, he now owns it"

Another superficial clich‚ with no basis in reality, borrowed from Colin Powell, often heard recited by those on the political Left is that since Bush "broke Iraq, he now must own it." Iraq has always been a broken nation of Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish tribes that the Ottomons and then the British and more recently Saddam Hussein tried to make into a cohesive nation by force, all to no avail.

"We didn't commit enough troops, we shouldn't have disbanded the Iraqi army, and we should have put Iraqis back to work"

Another triple-tongued clich‚ often heard recited by the political Left is that the failings of the war could have been averted if we had committed more troops, not disbanded the Iraqi army, and put more Iraqis back to work. We put 500,000 troops in Viet Nam, transferred the active war to the South Vietnamese, and initiated a pacification program with the populace through jobs, even including jobs on our own fire bases, all to no avail. The troop build-up and Vietnamization and pacification programs only made the South Vietnamese more dependent on U.S. intervention and money. The huge sums of U.S. aid to South Vietnam corrupted Presidents Diem and Thieu and eroded the legitimacy for the war in the eyes of many South Vietnamese. During my tour of duty in Vietnam one of our fire base camps near Dau Tieng was overrun by Viet Cong sappers after it was turned over to South Vietnamese troops. The South Vietnamese troops were found dead in their bunkers along with their families and farm animals as they considered military duty as a jobs and housing program. The Vietnamese barber who cut my hair in the field Headquarters for the 25th Infantry Division in Cu Chi, South Viet Nam during the war was eventually discovered to be a major in the Viet Cong.

"Historical ignorance is strength"

Another common phrase often heard about the Iraq War, which smacks of historical ignorance, is that it is "Bush's War." Many are not aware that it wasn't Bush I or Bush II that initially got us involved in the Middle East and ultimately in Iraq, but Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt who made a compact with King Saud in 1945, which obligates the U.S. to protect the Saudi royal family from threats from nearby terror-sponsoring nations, such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan, in return for the priority to buy oil. The Left's convenient failure to understand the history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East reminds one of the slogans in British writer George Orwell's book '1984:' "ignorance is strength."

Who controls the past controls future; who controls the present, controls the past

In the novel 1984 by British writer George Orwell, the slogan of the totalitarian political party was "who controls the past, controls the future; who controls the present, controls the past." Orwell's warnings about the use political propaganda described totalitarian regimes. But they equally apply to slogans of anti-war activists and those on the political Left. The Left's ability to capture public opinion is often its skill in inventing catchy slogans and bumper stickers. Often those who don't know what they are talking about rely on such convenient slogans. Surely, the political Left has some justification for alleging that the official reasons for the Iraq War -- weapons of mass destruction, ridding the world of a tyrant, and democracy building -- were political propaganda. But the public often suspects that government produces propaganda, especially during war. And the Bush administration may be hiding its true strategic goals in the Iraq War to avoid a larger war with all of Islam. (See: here). But those on the political Left who try and invoke the past slogans of the Vietnam War to control current public opinion about the Iraq War, perhaps spread an even more insidious form of propaganda, in that propaganda is typically thought to be produced only by the state.

(Wayne Lusvardi, Pasadena, California, has been published in the Orange County Register, Privatization Watch (Reason Institute), the USC Online Journal of Planning and Markets, and many other online weblogs, and is active in the Libertarian Party --

Note: The column below is reproduced from "The Pasadena Star News" of Nov. 17, 2004

Was so much destruction really necessary to free Iraq?

By Gerald Plessner

Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - ONCE again the war in Iraq has pulled our country into conduct that will stain our reputation and haunt our international relations, especially with the Muslim world, for generations. Iraqi insurgents have drawn our Marines and soldiers into a bloody battle that has almost destroyed a city, increasing the hatred of America by average Iraqis. Current events will probably enhance the recruiting power of terrorist groups as well, for such has been the case during our entire time in Iraq. Clearing Fallujah of well-organized resistance forces was a worthy goal. Elections should be held in January because they are essential to the legitimacy of any future government.

But did we have to destroy Fallujah to save it? A city of 200,000 to 300,000 people should not be subjected to the tyranny of Saddam Hussein's henchmen and secret police. If a new government is to survive and develop a more open society, people must live in safety and freedom. To remove this threat to the elections, U.S. forces have reportedly killed 1,600 insurgents. But did we have to destroy mosques to finish the job?

If an occupying army destroyed the Crystal Cathedral or defiled the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, wouldn't we be outraged? How long would we remember bitterly such treatment and to what length might we go to seek revenge or justice? The destruction and defilement of mosques will be used by Islamic extremists the world over to generate even more hatred for America. It is one more reason why the war in Iraq is a big negative in the war on terrorism.

It is also a bonanza for those who stoke hatred against us. This is not to critique the plans or execution of our military leaders in Iraq or elsewhere. In our democracy, they execute plans to achieve the tasks that civilian leaders set for them. And when it comes to such things, they are the best. It is sad that our civilian Pentagon leaders didn't listen to our military experts before they led us into this war. We have written before about the arrogance and disrespect that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has consistently shown to any general with the temerity to suggest an alternative to his preconceived goals.

Now the United States is reaping the whirlwind that Rumsfeld and his fellow neo-imperialists created by their arrogance. We are fighting an insurgency made more virulent by their not disbanding salvageable parts of the Iraqi army, by not allocating enough troops to secure a nation with scores of ammunition dumps, and by failing miserably to put Iraqi men back to work. Now thousands of Iraqi men, women and children are being killed or forced to hide in their homes for days without food or safe water, which can itself lead to death. And an entire city has been laid to waste. Our Marines and soldiers are being killed and wounded in a city barely brought under control and we can only imagine which city will be next as our military tries to bring democracy to Iraq.

Before our election, it was reported that people around Rumsfeld knew that their neo- imperialism goals were ashes. It was also reported that the administration would go to any lengths to assure that an election would be held in Iraq. Then, after a few months of Iraqi self-rule, the president would again proclaim "mission accomplished' and begin the pull-out of our troops from Iraq. Experts also predicted that the resulting chaos will probably degenerate into a terrible civil war across Iraq. With Secretary of State Colin Powell announcing his resignation, his Pottery Barn adage that, "If you break it, you own it,' seems quaint.

Which raises an even larger question, "Did we have to destroy Iraq to save it?'

(Gerald Plessner is an Arcadia businessman who writes on issues of politics and culture. He can be contacted at

Friday, November 19, 2004


Father Mike Walsh of the Maryknoll organization writes:

Piqued somewhat by your own observations, and for whatever it's worth, I have been trying for some time to analyze the pathology of leftism. Local conditions may account for some variations; I speak for what I have observed in the U.S., among American liberals, and this is just a preliminary assay, subject to later modification. Several characteristics are prominent:

It is elitist. There may be some patronizing superficial regard for working-class people, but basically, for people who have 'traditional' values, liberals feel nothing but contempt. And in the case where an approved minority supports those values, they just ignore that uncomfortable fact, and promote leaders among that minority who are more like themselves. "Flyover country" -that's where people like me live, in spirit, if not in fact. Liberalism is egalitarian in theory, but not in any way that would challenge the status of liberals. For example, almost no liberal who could afford not to would send his kid to a public school.

Liberalism is moralistic. But liberals are also highly selective in their moralizing, opposing only things that would not require change on their part. Liberals are generally opposed to hunting, for example. Personal morality, for which they mostly no longer have a religious basis, is nevertheless still a source of pain and struggle, which is another reason they transfer their self-righteous anger to things that require of them no pain or personal struggle. Movie stars are particularly egregious examples of this. They regard themselves as gods, above petty human morality, but concerned with larger matters of war and peace, the security of nature, etc

It is statist. Liberals believe in government, except when it comes to doing what government does best, or does most legitimately, e.g., defense. Why this is so is something that might be worth exploring at greater length sometime. Perhaps it stems from the fact that warfare entails real moral consequences rather than comfortable symbolic ones. Liberals believe in redistributing wealth, but not in any way that would increase people's real freedom (securing property rights, school choice), but only in ways that would create larger and larger classes of government dependents. They are careful to reject all aspects of "ownership society" such as privatization of social security or health care savings accounts.

It is anti-intellectual. This claim may seem odd, in light of the fact that leftists dominate the universities and mass-media. But they are rapidly abandoning the intellectual traditions that gave rise to those institutions, and their intellectuality is increasingly a sham. This is one reason why they frequently dismiss the work of 'dead white males', for these are the foundations of which they are increasingly ignorant, and from which the strongest critique of their views may come.

The roots of modern liberalism are several. On one level, modern American liberalism is simply the last and most desiccated form of Protestantism. They are what remains of the Puritans in America. You can chart the progress, or devolution, from Calvinism to Puritanism, and eventually to Unitarianism, to Transcendentalism, to liberalism. The subjectivity is key: it is a progression from justification by faith to justification by self-regard. And as the Puritans would look for a sign of election, so modern liberals seek validation by ratifying the PC stance on whatever crusade is current; a strong (symbolic) moral stance they can take with the assurance that comes from solidarity with the like-minded. And that is why they get so angry when you disagree with them: with their egos so strongly rooted in their opinions, any disagreement is experienced as a personal threat. Theirs is not merely a presumption of moral superiority, but a profound need.

Another root is of course, the 'Enlightenment'. Having lost any God-centeredness, it becomes the source of the morality that is central to Liberals' self-image. Freedom and equality are the main tenets, but these contraries are reconciled in the modern liberal imagination by reducing the first to autonomy and the latter to arithmetic. For them, freedom is personal 'lifestyle' choice (what a more classical view would regard as at best characteristic of adolescence); the highest, indeed the only real virtue for the liberal, is tolerance; tolerance specifically of other peoples' choices. And equality, for the liberal, does not mean equality before the law, but equality of results. The liberal exists in a state of anxiety and will likely never rest until all differences have been reduced to a flat, grey, androgynous mean This also accounts for their affection for government, which alone can exert the force necessary to achieve this Procrustean goal.

I think it is significant that while there are many notable examples of people who were leftists and moved rightward, one only rarely encounters the reverse. The rightward shift usually happens when egalitarianism costs them something, or when they can no longer endure the contradictions that liberalism leads them into.

Liberal Catholics -- my personal betes-noire -- have bought the progressivist agenda tout court. They love the title of "prophet", but are incapable of bringing any critique to bear upon the Left, and their enthusiasm for sugar-coating every leftist outrage, or ignoring those they can't do this with, shamefully belies their promise to preach the Gospel "in season and out of season."

The publishing wing of my own religious order once put out a book entitled "Love and Struggle in Mao's Thought." It should not even be necessary to point out that it was not written by a Chinese. What is it about Western liberals that compels them to canonize even the most vicious anti-Western demagogue? Perhaps an example from the schoolyard may be illustrative: that of the cowardly child who sucks up to a bully in order to mollify him. It is beyond my ability to mock; it is pointless to lampoon what is already utterly absurd. Which is why I use the term "pathology" for this little exercise.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Snake That Swallowed Its Tail: some contradictions in modern liberalism , by Mark Garnett Imprint Academic, 96pp, 8 pounds 95p

Book Review by John Gray

One of the curious features of the present time is that, even though we are all liberal, there is no agreement about what liberalism means. Some people will tell you that the core liberal value is personal liberty, but others insist it is equality. Some say that liberal values require multiculturalism, while others believe they demand a common culture based on personal autonomy. For some, liberalism is a strictly political theory that applies only to the structure of the state. For others, it is a whole way of life.

These are not just minor differences. They extend to the basic concepts of liberalism itself and to the underlying philosophical beliefs in line with which they are interpreted. If some liberals see freedom as mere absence of interference, others view it as a positive ability to act. For some liberal thinkers, justice requires protecting private property; for others, it means redistribution. Underlying these differences are even larger divergences: some liberals are ardent supporters of rights, while others are defenders of utilitarianism; some are devotees of social contract theory, and yet others are partisans of value pluralism.

What all liberals have in common is a touching certainty that they are right. Liberalism is a missionary faith, and proselytising zeal is not normally conducive to sceptical inquiry. Whatever the core values of liberalism, they can surely conflict with one another - and with other goods such as social cohesion. Yet it rarely occurs to liberals to ask themselves whether their values - however vaguely or inconsistently defined - are viable in the long term.

It is this last question that preoccupies Mark Garnett. In "The Snake That Swallowed Its Tail", he argues that a highly individualistic type of liberalism - "the philosophy of the short term, of the speed-dating, cold-calling society" - has come to pervade political life in Britain. In the past, thinkers such as John Stuart Mill had a vision of liberal values in which altruism was prized. As Garnett sees it, Mill's "fleshed-out" liberalism was displaced in the Thatcher era by a "hollowed-out", Hobbesian philosophy in which self-interest is at the centre. Liberalism of this latter kind is ultimately self-undermining, he believes: it can end only by "swallowing its tail", at which point a reaction in favour of saner values will set in.

Few academic writers know enough about the business of politics to be able to write intelligently about the tangled links between theory and practice. Garnett is one of the few, and his arresting and often amusing account of the political history of postwar Britain as a transition from fleshed-out to hollowed-out liberalism will be read with profit by anyone interested in the role of ideas in politics.

This does not mean that his account is always convincing. Like many critics of the narrow version of liberal individualism that has shaped politics since the 1980s, Garnett portrays it as a deeply pessimistic philosophy that owes a great deal to Hobbes. To my mind, it is precisely the opposite. In so far as Margaret Thatcher and her disciples had anything resembling a coherent political vision, it was of a neoliberal utopia.

Thatcher believed that the British economy could be revolutionised, and that at the same time Britain's culture could remain unchanged - or revert to the norms of the 1950s. She never understood that the ideology of choice and innovation she promoted in the economy would inevitably spill over into other areas of life. She believed that unfettered choice would somehow be virtuous, and completely failed to foresee the anomic, crime-ridden society that has actually developed. Like other neoliberals, she seems to have imagined that freedom is the natural human condition - a view Thomas Hobbes scorned heartily, and rightly so.

If "The Snake That Swallowed Its Tail" has a positive message, it is "Back to Mill" - the embodiment of the fleshed-out liberal philosophy that has supposedly been abandoned over the past generation. No doubt Garnett is right in thinking that Mill's was a superior form of liberalism, but it is hard to see how it can be revived today. He tells us that it will return only "once Britain has been entirely hollowed out". However, to adapt a well-known adage of Adam Smith's, there is much hollowness in a nation - and in liberalism. Most likely Britain will drift on much as it does at present, a country where everyone believes in liberal values, yet no one knows what they are.

John Gray's latest book is: "Heresies: against progress and other illusions" (Granta). This review first appeared in the "New Statesman" of November 12th., 2004

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Harvard's Nazi Ties

by Stephen H. Norwood

When I began researching how the American academic community responded to the Nazi persecution of the Jews in the 1930s, I expected to find some troubling episodes.  But what I discovered is far more disturbing than I ever anticipated.

At  a Boston University conference this week, sponsored by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, I described some of my research findings, especially those pertaining to Harvard University.

The Harvard University administration during the 1930s, led by President James Conant, ignored numerous opportunities to take a principled stand against the Hitler regime and the antisemitic outrages it perpetrated, and contributed to Nazi Germany's efforts to improve its image in the West.  The administration's lack of concern about Nazi antisemitism was shared by many influential Harvard alumni and students.  A faculty panel that supervised a mock trial of Hitler in 1934 ruled that Hitler's anti-Jewish actions were "irrelevant" to the debate.  Nazi leaders were warmly welcomed to the Harvard campus and invited to prestigious social events, as the Harvard administration strove to build friendly relations with thoroughly Nazified universities in Germany.  By doing so, Harvard's administration and many of its student leaders offered important encouragement to the Hitler regime as it intensified its persecution of the Jews and strengthened its armed forces.

President Conant's insistence on treating Nazi academics as part of the "learned world," and his reluctance to offer faculty positions to prominent Jewish refugee scholars, was shaped in part by his own antisemitic prejudices. When the DuPont corporation sought his advice about hiring a German Jewish scientist who had fled the Nazis, Conant urged it not to employ him, noting that he was "very definitely of the Jewish type--very heavy."  The scientist they rejected, Max Bergmann, was described by the New York Times as "one of the leading organic chemists in the world."

Prominent Harvard alumni, student leaders, and some faculty assumed a major role in the friendly welcome accorded the Nazi warship Karlsruhe when it visited Boston in 1934, flying the swastika flag.  Boston's Jewish community protested vociferously.  President Conant remained silent.  Officers and crewmen from the warship were entertained at Harvard, and professors attended a gala reception in Boston where the warship's captain enthusiastically praised Hitler.

That year, the Harvard administration welcomed a top Nazi official, Ernst Hanfstangl, who was Hitler's foreign press chief as well as a virulent antisemite, to the campus for his 25th class reunion.  The student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, editorialized that the university should award Hanfstangl an honorary degree "as a mark of honor appropriate to his high position in the government of a friendly country."  The joyous reception Hanfstangl received on campus was interrupted when a local rabbi confronted him and demanded to know what Hanfstangl had meant when he recently remarked that "everything would soon be settled for the Jews in Germany."  The rabbi cried out, "My people want to know . . . does it mean extermination?"  Hanfstangl replied that he  "[could] not discuss that.  I am on vacation.  I am with my old friends."  The Nazi official proceeded to President Conant's house for tea.

Anti-Nazi activists opposed Hanfstangl's visit.  Some put up posters in Harvard Yard, only to have the Harvard police tear them down.  Others held a rally in Harvard Square.  Seven demonstrators who tried to speak at the rally were arrested, and sentenced to six months at hard labor.  Conant called the demonstration "very ridiculous."

Several months later, the Harvard administration permitted the Nazi German consul-general to lay a wreath bearing the swastika in the university's chapel, beneath a tablet honoring Harvard men killed fighting for Germany in World War I.

During the next several years, Harvard participated in academic student exchanges with Nazi universities. In 1936 Harvard contributed significantly to Nazi Germany's effort to gain international respectability by accepting Heidelberg University's invitation to send a delegate to its 550th anniversary festival.  Heidelberg had expelled its Jewish professors, reshaped its curricula to reflect Nazi ideology, and staged a massive public burning of books by Jews.  The Germans had exploited the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Bavaria to extol Nazism.  It should have been obvious they would do the same at Heidelberg.  American newspapers described the Heidelberg festival as a "brown-shirt pageant" in which Nazi leaders delivered antisemitic harangues.

Moreover, Conant did not sign a petition that some American educators circulated in 1937 when Polish universities required segregated seating for Jewish students.  Poland's Jews considered this a major step toward ghettoization in all areas of life, and appealed to Western educators to denounce it.

It is shameful that the leaders of America's most prestigious university remained indifferent to Germany's terrorist campaign against the Jews in the critical years leading up the Holocaust, and on many occasions even assisted the Nazis’ efforts to improve their public image in the West.

Bush election earthquake presents Europe with huge challenge

The US has a government aimed at overthrowing much of the post-World-War II order

By Martin Wolf

THESE US elections were an earthquake. The American people have done far more than re-elect an administration that is as reckless as it is radical. They have also given the same party secure control over Congress. Republicans will now try to secure a Supreme Court of much the same complexion. Should they succeed, right-wing populism will animate all three branches of American government.

Contemporary Republicans are not conservatives. On the contrary, theirs is a revolutionary movement aimed at overthrowing much of the post-World War II order at home and abroad. For two groups, in particular, this seismic shift in US politics poses a huge challenge. The Democrats must reverse their slide from predominance to irrelevance. Europeans face much the same task.

Let us leave the former to their pain and turn to the latter instead. With the end of the Cold War. Europe is important to the US neither as an arena nor as an actor. In Europe many Americans see a collection of states that are neither willing to follow obediently nor able to help effectively. They view the European economy as decrepit and the European future as dismal. In earlier times, Europeans visited two cataclysmic world wars upon the planet. More recently, they failed to deal with the minor challenge of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Instead, they wrung their hands like so many Pontius Pilates.

While powerful Americans view Europeans with contempt, the latter respond with a growing dismay. This is only partly because the contemporary European attachment to secularism and the welfare state is as powerful as that of Republicans to their opposites. Far more important is the divergence over foreign policy. As two distinguished American scholars, Robert. Tucker and David Hendrickson, note in a brilliant article in Foreign Affairs, this administration has proudly overthrown all four of the pillars that supported US legitimacy in the postwar world: "its commitment to international law; its acceptance of consensual decision-making; its reputation for moderation; and its identification with the preservation of peace".

For most Europeans, the Americans have put the world back on the road to international disorder of the worst kind. If might made right, the European Union itself would founder. The big powers would again dictate to the rest. A Republican US is a new American challenge for Europe. The dream of a deep and durable alliance between the two sides of the Atlantic is defunct. A good working relationship is possible. But Europe must first reinvigorate itself economically and politically.

Europe's demographic decline makes economic resurgence even more essential. As the report on the "Lisbon strategy", under the chairmanship of Wim Kok, former prime minister of The Netherlands, notes: "The pure impact of ageing populations will be to reduce the potential growth rate of the EU from the present rate of 2-2.25 per cent to around 1.25 per cent by 2040 ... Already from 2015, potential economic growth will fall to around 1.5 per cent if the present use of the labour potential remains unchanged."

Yet, far from making the best use of available resources, the EU economy shows signs of growing difficulties. After a glorious period of catch-up with US incomes per head, the EU has experienced a marked relative decline since 1990. Behind this lies a worrying deterioration in both absolute and relative productivity performance; and the proportion of people of working age actually at work is only 64 per cent in the EU of 15 members, against 71 per cent in the US, with particularly poor performance in Belgium, France, Greece, Italy and Spain.

In March 2000, European leaders committed the EU to become, by 2010, "the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world". If nothing else, this demonstrated a sense of humour. Needless to say, the EU will fail to achieve this objective, as the Kok report demonstrates. It cannot even be said that they are any closer to that objective than they were more than four years ago. If Europe is to sustain its vaunted social model, provide steady increases in living standards to its population or sustain its position in the world, this performance has to improve. I doubt whether there is a credible cooperative answer to this challenge.

The solution should come instead from intense competition among companies and among the regulatory regimes offered by governments, within the context of a free internal market. That spirit of competition must also be extended to institutions of higher education. A revitalised economy is the beginning. On it must be built two crucial changes. First, Europe must have military forces able, at the very least, to bring security to Europe and its immediate neighbourhood and, ideally, to act effectively abroad. Only then are the Americans likely to take Europe's voice seriously. Secondly, Europe must avoid both the current British policy of slavish obedience and the equally depressing French policy of instinctive opposition. Europeans need to have foreign policies of their own. Frequently they will be allies of the US; sometimes they will wish to stand aside; and - only occasionally, one hopes - they will find themselves in carefully calibrated opposition.

Bush's re-election brings one salutary benefit for Europe: it is clearly time to grow up. The era of a benign tutelage is over. The era of partnership may yet begin. Europe must both revitalise its economy and maintain its own security. It must not seek to confront the US for the sake of it: that would be childish. But it must also refuse to trot by the American side, regardless: that would be infantile.

It is time for the old continent to become an adult, with a mature voice in the world's councils. That voice is desperately needed. Can Europe rise to the challenge of supplying it? I doubt it. Who, given the record, would not? But I also hope.

The above article appeared in "The Australian" newspaper of 11.11.2004

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey

By Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, Gilbert Burnham


Background: In March, 2003, military forces, mainly from the USA and the UK, invaded Iraq. We did a survey to compare mortality during the period of 14.6 months before the invasion with the 17.8 months after it.

Methods: A cluster sample survey was undertaken throughout Iraq during September, 2004. 33 clusters of 30 households each were interviewed about household composition, births, and deaths since January, 2002. In those households reporting deaths, the date, cause, and circumstances of violent deaths were recorded. We assessed the relative risk of death associated with the 2003 invasion and occupation by comparing mortality in the 17.8 months after the invasion with the 14.6-month period preceding it.

Findings: The risk of death was estimated to be 2.5-fold (95% CI 1.6-4.2) higher after the invasion when compared with the preinvasion period. Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja. If we exclude the Falluja data, the risk of death is 1.5-fold (1.1-2.3) higher after the invasion. We estimate that 98000 more deaths than expected (8000-194000) happened after the invasion outside of Falluja and far more if the outlier Falluja cluster is included. The major causes of death before the invasion were myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accidents, and other chronic disorders whereas after the invasion violence was the primary cause of death. Violent deaths were widespread, reported in 15 of 33 clusters, and were mainly attributed to coalition forces. Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children. The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher (95% CI 8.1-419) than in the period before the war.

Interpretation: Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes.

Published online October 29, 2004.

Link to full report: (264kb)

COMMENT BY John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.):

Above is the summary from an article in The Lancet -- which estimates that there have been more than 100,000 deaths in Iraq that were due to the invasion there. Various conservative writers have criticized the study and various Leftists (e.g. here) have replied.

Nobody, however, seems to have commented on the fact that the findings were a product of cluster sampling. The major fault I see with the study is that estimating low-incidence phenomena via cluster samples is inherently dodgy. I have had many findings derived from cluster samples reported in the academic journals so I know a little bit about it. You just have to get one or two clusters being a-typical (either by chance or intentionally) to arrive at totally distorted results. Basing such an important conclusion on a sample-size of only 33 is really quite ludicrous. I have used as few as 10 clusters in some of my surveys but I was concerned only to find whether some effect existed at all. I was not trying to estimate it precisely.

All that aside, however, who doubts that wars kill people? And who doubts that the deaths in a war have to be offset against the deaths that might otherwise have occured if the war were not fought? If you believe that such offsetting should not be done, you would also have to say that Britain should have said "We surrender" to Hitler.