Monday, May 28, 2007

Achieving victory in Iraq?

As many have predicted the victory in Iraq will be a hand over of much influence on the country to its Shiite fundamentalist neighbor - Iran. The US and Iran ambassadors have just concluded an unprecedented round of talks on the topic of Iraq. This has been predicted on huffpo not long ago by blogger Hooman Majd - I think. He then said that a division of the spoils of sorts in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion between the US and Iran will serve as a basis of cooperation that could stabilize the Middle East. This is not unrealistic - the US should have seen this as a way out long time ago - Iran had served as a stabilizing counterweight to Saddam Hussein before the Iraq invasion.

The US overture toward a mortal enemy will present a quandary to the leadership in Congress - now Democratic and anti-war. As they have failed to cut off funding for the war in Iraq and force the president to accept a withdrawal timetable they will now be met with arguments in favor of military presence in Iraq that would be needed to bolster the US position in negotiations with Iran. And there is much to be gained from such negotiations.

A larger question is whether it is wise to entrust this cynical and secretive administration with this sort of delicate diplomacy while it is clear it should not have been entrusted with initiation and conduct of the conflict in Iraq. Democrats will be embarrassed if Bush really achieves results through this diplomatic initiative. The best thing they could do right now is to pass a law to forbid a US attack on Iran.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Christopher Hitchens' superficial attack on religion

His recent book on "how religion poisons everything" seems to be very needed currently but unfortunately seems to suffer from a certain characteristic superficiality. I have not read it yet but heard some interviews on TV and youtube. Here is a link to youtube of a panel discussion during a bookfest in LA.

Also here is a link to an article I wrote a few days before 9/11 on the fanaticism inherent in religion.

Hitchens managed to courageously and correctly grasp and express the idea that religion can be tremendously detrimental to civilization as it engenders solipsistic fanaticism which says: "we are the ones who have a mission in this world from the absolute almighty and we are going to carry it out with fanatical zeal." In the process the religious fanatic does not notice that we all live in a world created by man.

In my view certain religions have a huge tendency to support this sort of anticivilizational attitude and they ought to be criticized for exactly that. Islam is pretty high on the list of propensity toward fascism while Buddhism would be probably low. Fundamentalist Christianity would be high on this list while Anglicans probably score near the Buddhists.

The other panelists tried to point out the shortcomings of Hitchens' superficiality, but none of them seemed to get to the core of the issue. Hitchens understands religion only in the narrow sense of the word, which understanding is also shared by the fanatical believers, that professes a certain necessity of belief in the unbelievable, in entities and beings beyond experience which then dictate a horrendous moral statute. Religion in broad sense of the term is an expression of our spiritual experience, our human fact of our physical finitude while grasping the infinite with our minds. Religion is a way of dealing with the "ultimate concern" - to use Tillich's words - about our existence in this world - and it does not necessarily imply any belief in things beyond experience.

A similarly superficial essay on religion was written by Bertrand Russell - I am surprised by the reluctance of Anglo-Saxon thinkers to truly examine the depth of the question.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Democrats have control - and what now?

Hello fellow liberal-minded Democratic voters! So you managed to populate both houses of Congress with the so-called opposition to President Bush.

Now watch how they perform. Will they exert enough pressure on the executive branch to desist from pursuing the disastrous Iraq campaign? We have already seen them exchanging pleasantries with Bush at the Democratic retreat. They were honored by the visit of the Commander, Decider and what-not in-Chief (shall I say Fuehrer?) and behaved politely - like children in school.

Can we count on them to reverse the hemorrhaging of American wealth and moral influence around the world caused by the current administration?

I really doubt it. Too many of them have already cast votes in the past for the war effort and will be afraid to change their mind and risk challenges in future elections where their opponent could come in with fresh past - untainted by war votes. They have already invested their career in the success of the Iraq undertaking and cannot bring themselves to admitting that this investment has to be disposed of with a loss.

And all this when they have a perfect case for impeachment of the president which is practically constructing itself in the Libby trial. Robert Scheer writes this.

Quoting Scheer:

"Cheney, like some Daddy Warbucks cartoon character of old, has been so blatant in his corruption of the nation's second highest office that we seem to have become inured to further revelations of his evil influence. Instead of being shocked, we are more likely jaded by even more examples of the man's use of his office to persistently undermine our democratic heritage. Too bad he wasn't cursed by an overactive libido."

All this is happening because you, oh my liberal voter, have been too nice to your representative granting him/her your vote in exchange for what? For collusion with the administration leading the country down the path of catastrophe through its imperious attitude toward the world and lies towards the American public.

How about standing up and stopping the administration from war with Iran? Here is what James Fallows writes on the subject:

Fallows also points out the logical error constantly being utilized by both sides - namely the statement that success in Iraq is important and at the same time our commitment there is not open-ended - is a contradiction.

Will you Democratic voter finally do something about your weak-kneed representatives? I have already done something - I threatened their seat in Congress by voting Libertarian.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Character of Poles

Here is a thought about the character of Poles.

They are 50% catholic and 50% anarchists. Somehow they can reconcile these two attitudes - alas - to no great effect. Because they are mutually in check.
Anarchism keeps them from doing things that would be horrible (like Nazism) but Catholicism keeps them strangely disciplined so that they don't do things that would make them great. Of course their Catholicism is of the docile institutional kind - like a child's asking the parent for approval without questioning why he is isn the family. So Poles will not foster a spiritual revolt in the Church.
Anarchism is on the scale of personal liberty without appreciation of the social value of individual liberty.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Borat - a stealthy caricature

The film Borat that recently hit the cinemas in the US manages to present an "ethnic" offense but this time addressed to mainstream Americans who are a sort of ethnic specimen. Clearly authors of the film abused their naive and willing subjects who did not realize they were interacting with a caricature of the outside world and were patiently condescending toward the Kazakh pretenders.

I object to the abuse, even if it is abuse of ignorance and stupidity, but maybe something good will come out of this. Also the film is a joke in bad taste - but I do not object to that.