Sunday, July 23, 2006

A difference of philosophy... and more....

It's interesting to search out the Geneva Convention(s) (there are 4 of them), and see how combatants are SUPPOSED to identify themselves and separate themselves from civilians.

In the current Israeli/Hezbollah conflict, and in the War on terror generally, this image sums the difference up quite well I feel.

Graphic from here. (Host site looks interesting too).

The picture conveys the meaning well enough, but a friend at work translated the text for me.

Hebrew is read right to left, but grammatically, words often group in a different order.

The left hand part of the text is the short form for 'Israeli Army'. the RH part translates as 'spirit' or 'ideals'.

This one puts it even more bluntly;

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Politics, it's not simply 'left' vs 'right'.

I sometimes get accused of being a right-winger, a neocon. But I disagree with that 'handle. For a start, I am not 'authoritarian' in my views - in fact, I find common ground with those who consider themselves to be libertarians.

I don't believe it is a simple, two-dimensional line on which you identify where you sit. There are at least three factors to consider, making it a multi-dimensional descriptive task, Those three being, at least; your economic views, your views on society and it's organisation, and your attitude towards authority.
By way of example, Hitler and Stalin were considered examples of the extreme right and left respectively, yet both were harsh authoritarians. Niether had time for the democratic process of choosing political representatives. As I've seen it put; 'If government has it's boot on your throat, it matters not whether it is the left or right boot!'.

So, where do I fit in this multi-dimensional matrix? There are on-line quizzes you can take. Interesting way to find out, somewhat more objectively than may otherwise be the case, where your views actually lie.

First, there is the Political Compass. Useful not least because it plots some past and present world leaders on that matrix. (I sit slightly right of centre, and tending slightly towards the libertarian on this quiz).
Then there is 'The World's Smallest Political Quiz'. I took this and, surprise, found it identifies me as a libertarian.

"...LIBERTARIANS support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties...".

And it even gives you a nifty chart.

Take the test! You may even challenge some perceptions you had about your own views.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Drums of war.

Islam spread by the sword. Christianity, I'd argue, spread initially because of an acceptance of it's message of brotherly love (and later it became the State Religion of Rome). As religions go, few are more peacable than Budhism (the Jains perhaps). It is timely to remember that Christianity replaced many pagan religions in what was to become The West. In fact many 'Christian' holidays - like Easter and Christmas - borrow heavily from pagan predecessors.

If Islam views the west as effeminate, decadent, and unwilling to fight, they should examine the military history of the Anglosphere countries. 'Twould be telling. What underpins the Western soldier's value system?

First, I would identify chivalry, which some may identify as weakness, but I would argue is a noble difference between us and the rest. That and the fact that individual freedom MATTERS to us, and an individual life MATTERS. A loss of each individual soldier MATTERS, and his (or her) sacrifice matters more, and is honoured more (I argue) in our culture than in most.

But a westerner who becomes a soldier generally becomes a very good one, and the whole is much more than the sum of it's parts. So, I ask again why is the source of that drive? I don't have the answers, but I have my suspicions.

For a start. most of what became 'the West' has it's genesis in the migration of the Teutonic tribes c450AD - the ones who engulfed Rome. The Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, and those who became the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. Who in turn gave rise to the Anglo-Saxons, and the Vikings in particular. That's where 'we' in large part come from in terms of our culture and mythology. Though you must add in equal measures of Greek learning, and Roman ways of doing things, and the values of Judeo-Christian theology.

Of course, the poets distill it best;
...I shall not die alone, alone, but kin to all the powers,
As merry as the ancient sun and fighting like the flowers.
How white their steel, how bright their eyes!
I love each laughing knave,
Cry high and bid them welcome to the banquet of the brave.
Yea, I will bless them as they bend and love them where they lie,
When on their skulls the sword I swing falls shattering from the sky.
The hour when death is like a light and blood is like a rose,
- You never loved your friends, my friends, as I shall love my foes....
( From: The Last Hero - G K Chesterton).
and more

...Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon;
let the brow o’erwhelm it As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit To his full height.
On, on, you noblest English. Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war.
And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England,
show us here The mettle of your pasture;
let us swear That you are worth your breeding;
which I doubt not; For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start.
The game’s afoot: Follow your spirit,
and upon this charge
Cry “God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”....

That is from Shakespeare's Henry the Fifth, which is best known for this passage;

...This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian:”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...

"..In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger..."

So to the Ahmadinejad's of the world, we could say; 'beware', keep pushing and you will see another side to our cultural makeup. You may promise paradise to your footsoldiers, but ignore at your peril the righteous rage of those who fight for a noble ideal, and heed that we have a Valhalla in our ancestry and the warriors creed comes from deep in our DNA as well. Will there be time again for Viking and the ride of the Valkeries?

War on Terror. Mumbai, India gets hit.

Tuesday, July 11th; 'Mumbai bloodied by blasts but back at work', Reuters, July 12th 2006.

Terrorists have hit India, not for the first time. Mumbai joins the ranks of those targeted by (apparently) organisations who at least have some common underpinnings. India joins the USA (9/11), Spain, the UK (7/7), Australia (Bali) as a terrorist target. But the story behind the Mumbai, and earlier attacks is a little different.

The 'progressives', ie the left, tell us that the US, UK, Australia 'deserved' terror attacks because of their support for Israel, or involvement on the War on Terror, or any of a number of other reasons which really boil down to those entities rejection of an Islamic/Arab wish list. Or some say it's just a product of the antipathy such organisations feel towards The West, it's economic success and values.

But India? Is not involved in the War on Terror, not an ally of Israel, not in direct conflict in the middle east (though there are problems with it's Islamic neighbour Pakistan, which may yeild some clues). It isn't a first-world country in a socio-economic sense - though it's prosperity and economic power is growing.

So. Why hit India? I suggest, because it is a big economy, growing, Hindu (ie not Islamic, and in that sense, to radical Islam, even lower in their estimation than the 'people of the book' - Jews and Christians), and a threat to an Islamic 'brother' nation - Pakistan.
Whatever else this attack does, it puts paid to the suggestion that disengaging from the War on Terror, from the middle east, not supporting Israel, and the other things, will take you off the target list.
No, this is a war waged by those who have no place in their world view for any other than themselves, or their minions.

(With apologies to Star Trek and the Borg) those are giving the nations of the world a choice, with only 2 options 'Resist [ie Fight] or risk being assimilated'.

Where does this end? I don't see it ending well, I see it ending in war, for there seems to be no possibility of compromise, or that they will leave 'the West', or for that matter, any nation or culture differing from their own political-religeous beliefs alone and in peace.

(It may well be worth doing a quick tally here. The Muslim world has a population of at least 1.1 billion, with some sources suggesting much more. If they view the Anglosphere as their main opponents, then we number about 450 million (US, UK, Canada, Australia, NZ, Ireland) - however there is also an enormous technological and military disparity to take into account. Include India's population as allies of that Anglosphere (it IS a Commonwealth country) and the balance tips overwhelmingly in our favour. Should war come, it would become, in Churchill's words; an exercise in "the proper application of overwhelming force".
Maybe they should think in those terms before getting too adventurous).

Friday, July 14, 2006

Poetic Power

Good poetry has a rhyme and rythm. Great poetry has raw, emotive power. This is one of the most powerful pieces I know of.

...Oh FREEDOM! thou art not, as poets dream,

A fair young girl, with light and delicate limbs,

And wavy tresses gushing from the cap

With which the Roman master crowned his slave

When he took of the gyves. A bearded man,

Armed to the teeth, art thou; one mailed hand

Grasps the broad shield, and one the sword; thy brow,

Glorious in beauty though it be, is scarred

With tokens of old wars; thy massive limbs

Are strong with struggling. Power at thee has launched

His bolts, and with his lightnings smitten thee;

They could not quench the life thou hast from heaven.

Merciless power has dug thy dungeon deep,

And his swart armorers, by a thousand fires,

Have forged thy chain; yet, while he deems thee bound,

The links are shivered, and the prison walls

Fall outward: terribly thou springest forth,

As springs the flame above a burning pile,

And shoutest to the nations, who return

Thy shoutings, while the pale oppressor flies.

Thy birthright was not given by human hands:

Thou wert twin-born with man. In pleasant fields,

While yet our race was few, thou sat’st with him,

To tend the quiet flock and watch the stars,

And teach the reed to utter simple airs.

Thou by his side, amid the tangled wood,

Didst war upon the panther and the wolf,

His only foes; and thou with him didst draw

The earliest furrows on the mountain side,

Soft with the deluge. Tyranny himself,

Thy enemy, although of reverend look,

Hoary with many years, and far obeyed,

Is later born than thou; and as he meets

The grave defiance of thine elder eye,

The usurper trembles in his fastness.

Thou shalt wax stronger with the lapse of years,

But he shall fade into a feebler age;

Feebler yet subtler. He shall weave his snares,

And spring them on thy careless steps, and clap

His withered hands, and from their ambush call

His hordes to fall upon thee. He shall send

Quaint maskers, forms of fair and gallant mien,

To catch thy gaze, and uttering graceful words

To charm thy ear; while his sly imps, by stealth,

Twine around thee threads of steel, light thread upon thread,

That grow to fetters; or bind down thy arms

With chains concealed in chaplets. Oh! Not yet

May’st thou unbrace thy corselet, nor lay by

Thy sword; nor yet, O Freedom! close thy lids

In slumber; for thine enemy never sleeps,

And thou must watch and combat till the day

Of the new earth and heaven. ...

From:The Antiquity of Freedom'

William Cullen Bryant.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

War in Iraq. Better than the do-nothing alternatives.

I see some are taking a 'getout/shouldn't have got in' approach to the Iraq war and the War on Terror. I disagree.

Examine the other options that could have been pursued, which mostly boil down to do nothing, and surmise where they lead.

Letting terrorists 'get away' with things like 9/11, and Bali, and London encourages them. So on one plane, we need to draw a line. That is why I support the moves against the Taliban, and Al Quaeda.

Iraq, under Saddam DID invade Kuwait in 1991, DID use gas against Iran in the First Gulf War, and the Kurds. It was a nasty regime and the world is better without such regimes. Stabilising that part of the world has got to be more desirable than the other alternative (remember the Scuds, Saddams long range guns, etc?). So I think getting involved in Iraq is a defensible position.

And these are but two heads of a larger beast. Radical and aggressive Islam. Shades of the philosophies that inderpinned agressive fascism (ie Hitler's Germany), and agressive Marxism (Cold War USSR).

I see an analogy to where the world was in 1933. if the line had been drawn then, and even a small war fought, that would have been better than the misery and 48 million dead of WW2.

I see the current challenge as every bit as serious as the fascist or Marxist challenges The West faced last century.

And the same 'usual suspects' line up to face that threat on the world's behalf.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


If you can have Francophiles, Germanophiles, and Anglophiles, what should we call those nice people who are fans of Australia? Austrophiles? Or maybe Strinophiles (an Ocker accent is sometimes referred to as talking 'Strine - Australian).

Charles Krauthammer is the latest to burst into print on the subject, in a piece called 'Why I Love Australia' (it must be said that there is a little more to the Gillard story than he apparently knows about though).

Bill Bryson is also a fan. An American living in Britain, he has written several entertaining books, including one on his experiences in Australia. He also covered the 2000 Sydney Olympics for 'The Times', probably the UK's premier newspaper.

Then there is Mark Steyn. He's written plenty of articles on Australia, including this one.

It's very nice to have supporters, and there is much Australia should be proud of. There is also much that could be improved.

But it is nice to have friends.