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March 16, 2004

"The Spanish Dishonored their Dead"

Mark Steyn's take on the Spanish elections:

"When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, naturally they will like the strong horse." So said Osama bin Laden in his final video appearance two-and-a-half years ago. But even the late Osama might have been surprised to see the Spanish people, invited to choose between a strong horse and a weak horse, opt to make their general election an exercise in mass self-gelding.

A strong statement on European attitudes toward terror.

Outsourcing American Jobs

Mort Zuckerman of US News handed me a surprise in his column this morning. I have been hearing jobs, jobs, jobs from the campaign trail, and how terrible it is that American jobs are being sent overseas by companies outsourcing work over the Internet. But it seems the economy is a little more subtle than I had realized. Zuckerman:

If you have shopped for a toy lately, you will have noticed how inexpensive many have become. On average, in the past six years, toy prices have fallen by about 25 percent. That is typical of what's been happening over a vast range of goods and services that we import. Lower prices and high quality, of course, are what American consumers expect. They're not thinking about paying a higher price in order to keep jobs in America, and this gives retailers little leeway in product sourcing, whether the products are made in China or South Carolina.

Now outsourcing is talked about as a national disaster, but we forget that it brings lower prices, which beget lower inflation, which begets an increase in the real purchasing power of people with relatively stagnant wages. It also begets lower interest rates, which beget higher investment and economic growth and lower mortgage rates. And according to a McKinsey Global Institute study, for every dollar a U.S. company spends on outsourcing, our economy gains $1.14.

Now the fact is that this is not hidden from the people on the campaign trail, and I intend to keep that fact in mind as I follow the speeches. Click here to read the entire article. Itís worth your time.

March 15, 2004

I Grieve for Spain

I am profoundly sorry for Spainís tragedy. They are a smaller nation, and their train bombings hit them every bit as hard as 911 did the United States. And I am sorry for them at another level as well. If indeed, as some pundits have said, the election in Spain turned the conservative government out of power because of the perceived Al Qaeda attack, they have handed Al Qaeda a victory they could hardly have hoped for.

And they have also made themselves hostage to terrorists for years, perhaps generations to come. It is sad. Long ago, to say that men "fought like Spaniards" was high praise. There was a time when Spanish pride would have turned against Al Qaeda and sent more troops to Iraq instead of pulling their troops out. But the prosperity of generations has weakened the knees of Spaniards just as it is doing to the good old USA.

To the Islamists of the world, we appear weak and degenerate, a society in decline. The United States gave them a shock after 911. Spain has now confirmed their judgment. And they are sitting quietly hoping that we will forget. The fact that we have had no major terror events in the United States may not be due to the Patriot Act. It may be merely a patient Al Qaeda, waiting on us to forget.

March 10, 2004

Hate in American Politics

I think it started with Reagan, grew with Clinton, and is reaching new heights today. Consider this column by Michele Malkin:

Those oh-so-compassionate liberals could hardly contain their glee upon hearing the news that Attorney General John Ashcroft is suffering from a severe case of gallstone pancreatitis.

"He has it coming. He is utterly sub-human and evil. Suffer, bastard," gloated an Internet user on the DemocraticUnderground.com Web site. "(T)he world would be better off without him," responded another writer on the forum. "I hope he is in the most severe pain a human being can suffer, and after that, I hope he remains in constant pain with no hope of relief," chimed in yet another bleeding-heart Democrat. Out in Hollywood, comedian Bill Maher echoed these unsparing sentiments during his HBO talk show monologue, speculating that Ashcroft contracted his unimaginably painful and potentially deadly illness from "wiping his (expletive) with the Bill of Rights." The audience roared with laughter.

The hate in American politics is getting out of hand. I have an intense distrust of the Clintons, but I can't imagine being gleeful at a misfortune like this befalling them. Probably some of this is just over-the-top humor, but people should be careful about rejoicing in their enemies misfortune:

(Proverbs 24:17-18)  "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, {18} or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him."

March 6, 2004

Globalization 3.0

I knew this was going on, but like Tom Friedman, I missed the significance of it. What he doesnít discuss, but probably will later, is that this is the very engine that is so frightening to Osama Bin Laden and his ilk. The Islam they envisage, at least so they claim, cannot survive the free flow of information in the world. This is a seminal piece by Tom Friedman, and a must read.

Mr. Rao's ability to service U.S. accounts this way is at the core of a business revolution that has happened over the past few years. I confess: I missed this revolution. I was totally focused on 9/11 and Iraq. But having now spent 10 days in Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley, I realize that while I was sleeping, the world entered the third great era of globalization.

The first era, from the late 1800's to World War I, was driven by falling transportation costs, thanks to the steamship and the railroad. That was Globalization 1.0, and it shrank the world from a size large to a size medium. The second big era, Globalization 2.0, lasted from the 1980's to 2000, was based on falling telecom costs and the PC, and shrank the world from a size medium to a size small. Now we've entered Globalization 3.0, and it is shrinking the world from size small to a size tiny. That's what this outsourcing of white-collar jobs is telling us ó and it is going to require some wrenching adjustments for workers and political systems.

Read the article here. You may have to register, but itís free.

March 4, 2004

John Kerry, in depth

For an great, in depth look at the man and the likely playout of the presidential campaign upcoming, donít miss Peggy Noonan today. A sample:

The good news about Mr. Kerry, and I mean this seriously, is he does not appear to be insane. We now know Howard Dean was frightened he might become president, and this perhaps led to what might be called irrepressibility and irritability. We know Wesley Clark was . . . well, he seemed a little mad too. The untold story of the Democratic race is that one of our two great parties had a remarkably shallow bench. They had no one. But Mr. Kerry is not crazy. You can imagine him as president. You can imagine him struggling, like Mr. Clinton, to know what precisely he wanted the presidency for once he had it, but at least you can imagine him having it.

To read the column, click here.

February 16, 2004

A Voterís Guide to Foreign policy.

Charles Krauthammer is a national treasure. Whether you agree with his politics or not, you have to agree that the man speaks with impeccable clarity and from an extensive background in foreign relations. Once in while he gives a seminal speech, and the February 10 Speech to the American Enterprise Institute defines the term. I have never heard anyone lay out so clearly, in terms anyone can understand, what the real differences are between foreign policy thinkers in the USA to day.

If you plan to vote in the 2004 elections, this piece is a must read. I do not say that because Krauthammer is a conservative and I hope he will persuade you to his point of view. I say it because he clarifies the issues as no one else has done. He argues for a point of view, but he also understands and addresses the other sides of the issue. I say "sides" advisedly, because foreign policy is a multifaceted discipline.

First, a few quotes and then I will link you to the speech so you can read it in context. If you care a hoot about foreign policy, this is a must read:

Americans have an healthy aversion to foreign policy. It stems from a sense of thrift: Who needs it? Weíre protected by two great oceans, we have this continent practically to ourselves and we share it with just two neighbors, both friendly, one so friendly that its people seem intent upon moving in with us.

It took three giants of the twentieth century to drag us into its great battles: Wilson into World War I, Roosevelt into World War II, Truman into the Cold War. And then it ended with one of the great anti-climaxes in history. Without a shot fired, without a revolution, without so much as a press release, the Soviet Union simply gave up and disappeared. . . .

Why, in the end, does liberal internationalism want to tie down Gulliver, to blunt the pursuit of American national interests by making them subordinate to a myriad of other interests?

In the immediate post-Vietnam era, this aversion to national interest might have been attributed to self-doubt and self-loathing. I donít know. What I do know is that today it is a mistake to see liberal foreign policy as deriving from anti-Americanism or lack of patriotism or a late efflorescence of 1960s radicalism.

On the contrary. The liberal aversion to national interest stems from an idealism, a larger vision of country, a vision of some ambition and nobility--the ideal of a true international community. And that is: To transform the international system from the Hobbesian universe into a Lockean universe. To turn the state of nature into a norm-driven community. To turn the law of the jungle into the rule of law--of treaties and contracts and UN resolutions. In short, to remake the international system in the image of domestic civil society.

They dream of a new world, a world described in 1943 by Cordell Hull, FDRís secretary of state--a world in which "there will no longer be need for spheres of influence, for alliances, for balance of power, or any other of the special arrangements by which, in the unhappy past, the nations strove to safeguard their security or promote their interests."

And to create such a true international community, you have to temper, transcend, and, in the end, abolish the very idea of state power and national interest. Hence the antipathy to American hegemony and American power. If you are going to break the international arena to the mold of domestic society, you have to domesticate its single most powerful actor. You have to abolish American dominance, not only as an affront to fairness, but also as the greatest obstacle on the whole planet to a democratized international system where all live under self-governing international institutions and self-enforcing international norms.

Just a sample. Read more here.

February 11, 2004

The Bush Doctrine

It isnít always easy to sort out the wheat from the chaff in politics and international relations. While I was impressed with Colin Powellís presentation at the UN showing Iraqís WMD program, I never really believed that was all there was the entire story. There was too much smoke, and not only coming out of the administration. There was altogether too much posturing coming from Europe as well.

It seemed apparent to me very early on that dealing with Afghanistan was far from the end of our problems with the middle east. Even if we had captured or killed Bin Laden, that could not have been the end. It was simply an insufficient reply to the events of September 11. Looking around to see who would help make the point, it was hard not to focus on IraqĖfor a host of reasons. WMD seemed to me at the time to be a mere casus belli, a reason for a war that had to be fought. The most important reasons were outside of the UN charter, so the Bush administration had to take what they had.

I am inclined to accept the allegations that the Bush administration had a war plan for Iraq before 9/11. They would have been irresponsible not to have had one. I expect the Pentagon had one under Clinton as well. But there appears to be even more than that going on.

According to a new book about to be released, "Surprise, Security and the American Experience," Bush has developed only the third American Grand Strategy in the history of the country. The author, John Lewis Gaddis, said that President Bush has undergone "one of the most surprising transformations of an underrated national leader since Prince Hal became Henry V."

He said also that Bush "undertook a decisive and courageous reassessment of American grand strategy following the shock of the 9/11 attacks. At his doctrine's center, Bush placed the democratization of the Middle East and the urgent need to prevent terrorists and rogue states from getting nuclear weapons. Bush also boldly rejected the constraints of an outmoded international system that was really nothing more than a snapshot of the configuration of power that existed in 1945."

Discussing the book, Tony Blankley asks, "Is President Bush becoming an historic world leader in the same category as President Franklin Roosevelt, as the eminent Ivy League professor argues? Or is he just a lying nitwit, as the eminent Democratic Party chairman and Clinton fundraiser Terry McAuliffe argues? I suspect that as this election year progresses, that may end up being the decisive debate."

February 5, 2004

The Truth about the CIA

There have been times, in listening to the talking heads on television, that I have asked myself what makes these pundits so certain in their opinions. If they are so smart, why arenít they running things at the CIA or the NSA? George Tenet answered those questions for me the this morning in a landmark speech at Georgetown University. I have never heard a head of the CIA speak so frankly about the agency and its work. What I heard was profoundly encouraging. That is not to say that the CIA knows everything, but they know two very important things. One, that the country depends on them for our security and two, they are conscientious in doing their job.

Some excerpts from a very believable speech:

To understand a difficult topic like Iraq takes patience and care. Unfortunately, you rarely hear a patient, careful or thoughtful discussion of intelligence these days. But these times demand it because the alternative -- politicized, haphazard evaluation, without the benefit of time and facts -- may well result in an intelligence community that is damaged and a country that is more at risk.

Before talking about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, I want to set the stage with a few words about intelligence collection and analysis, how they actually happen in a real world. This context is completely missing from the current debate. . . .

As intelligence professionals, we go to where the information takes us. We fear no fact or finding, whether it bears us out or not. Because we work for high goals -- the protection of the American people -- we must be judged by high standards. . . .

Still, the lack of direct access to some of these sources created some risk. Such is the difficulty in penetrating the Iraqi regime with human sources. And I want to be very clear about something: A blanket indictment of our human intelligence around the world is dead wrong. We have spent the last seven years rebuilding our clandestine service. As director of central intelligence, this has been my highest priority. . . .

So when you hear pundits say that we have no human intelligence capability, they don't know what they're talking about. It's important that I address these misstatements because the American people must know just how reliable American intelligence is on the threats that confront our nation.

Let's talk about Libya, where a sitting regime has volunteered to dismantle its WMD program. Somebody on television said we completely missed it. Well, he completely missed it. This was an intelligence success. Why? Because American and British intelligence officers understood the Libyan programs. . . .

I came here today to also tell the American people that they must know that they are served by dedicated, courageous professionals. It is evident on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is evident by their work against proliferators. It is evident by the fact that well over two-thirds of Al Qaeda's leaders can no longer hurt the American people.

All this is very encouraging.  I highly recommend reading the entire speech and drawing your own conclusions. Itís much better than accepting the punditsí conclusions. Read it here.

February 3, 2004

When the Spies Get it Right

In all the flap generated by intelligence failures, we are apt to go on blissfully unaware of the things they've done right. Bill Safire today tells the fascinating story of a cold war success that played a big part in the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union.

Intelligence shortcomings, as we see, have a thousand fathers; secret intelligence triumphs are orphans. Here is the unremarked story of "the Farewell dossier": how a C.I.A. campaign of computer sabotage resulting in a huge explosion in Siberia ó all engineered by a mild-mannered economist named Gus Weiss ó helped us win the cold war.

Read the fascinating story here.
 

January 17, 2004

The War against Freedom

Whatís really going on in the world? And what is this "War on Terror" really about. When you get to the basics, what people call "terrorism" is actually a war against the spread of Freedom.

The war is being waged by the enemies of freedom. Their motive? They are mortally afraid. What are they afraid of? Well, freedom of course. They think we are the problem, and thatís why they struck the World Trade Center. They want us to stop the invasion of what they call western values into their world. But we canít stop it. We arenít the cause of it, merely the harbinger.

We are no more the cause of freedom than the first robin on your lawn is the cause of spring. We arenít the cause of Freedom. God is. And their own people are beginning to demand freedom and the enemies of freedom are deathly afraid. MORE

January 12, 2004

The Choice

The story of the Bible begins and ends with a tree. In the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life held a central place. After the expulsion of man from the garden, we donít hear of the tree again until the last book of the Bible.1 There, man is in a very different environment called, "The paradise of God."2 Once again the Tree of Life is central. But now there is not one tree of life, but twelve. They are on both sides of the river of life and they bear twelve kinds of fruit. Moreover, the leaves of the tree are for the healing of all people.3 It is those who do Godís commandments who have a right to the Tree of Life, and the permission to enter the City of God.4

Everyone knows that the Tree of Life was in the Garden of Eden. It is also important to know that the Garden of Eden was not everywhere. It was a little world of its own within the larger world of the planet. It did not even encompass all of Eden, but was "eastward in Eden." The brief geography of Eden is unfamiliar, but this was a very long time ago and much has changed since then. It was surely a beautiful garden. Every tree that was good for food and pleasant to the eye was there; God made them grow out of the ground.

Then God created man out of the dust of the ground put him in this small world. For reasons that will become apparent, It is important to note from the outset that God placed Adam and Eve in a little world of their own. They were not exposed to the dangers of the whole world, but lived in a garden of Godís making and design.

There are a few things we can say about this world. We know there were animals there, but none of them were dangerous. We know that there was all the food anyone could ever desire. There was work to do, because Adam was told to "dress and keep" the garden. We know the climate was mild because there was no need for clothes. The man and his wife were naked, and there was no shame in it.5

There was no downside in Adamís world. From what comes later, we know there were no thorns or briars, and we can infer that there were no weeds or noxious plants. We can also infer that there was no pain, no disease, and we know there was the potential of living forever. It was an altogether perfect world.

But there was a kind of gateway out of this world into a larger, very different world, and that gateway was in the form of a tree. Why would anyone want to leave a perfect world, a paradise like Eden? Thatís a good question, but the answer is simple. Adam and Eve were not prisoners. They were not specimens for God to keep in his own private zoo. They were entirely human and entitled to freedom. So there had to be a way out. There had to be a choice of worlds to live in. But at the first, Adam and Eve were completely unaware of this other world. Their eyes were not opened to it.

Now about this other tree. It was called "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," and it was placed squarely in the center of the garden right alongside the tree of life.6 And the Lord told the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Now we know that God did not mean Adam would drop dead if he ate of the tree, but that he would become subject to death from that day forward. Adam was human and physical and, without access to the tree of life, his life was limited. He would grow old and die.

God told Adam and Eve plainly not to eat of the one tree. But if he didnít want them to eat of it, why was it there? If God did not want Adam to eat of the tree, why put it in the garden at all? Sure, it was a beautiful tree, but donít tell me God couldnít make the tree beautiful and safe at the same time. The answer seems obvious enough. The tree was there because man had to have a choice. If paradise became stultifying to him, he could leave. The tree was his way out, and it was not placed in some obscure corner of the garden. It was right there in the center alongside the tree of life. It gave man a choice of worlds to live in. MORE

 

January 5, 2004

The Lonely God

And God stepped out on space
And he looked around and said
"Iím lonely, Iíll make me a world."
1

It is a simple, elegant statement of cosmology. The author, James Weldon Johnson, not only sees God as creator of everything, he imagines a motive for the act of creation. It may seem strange to think of God as lonely. But if we believe that God created all things, then we must believe that there was a time when God was alone and was not content to stay that way. This is true whether you believe God is a Trinity, a Unity, or a family composed of Father and Son. Whatever we call "God" was alone.

It boggles the mind. The Bible tells us that God is eternal. He has always existed and always will. So the 14 billion year age of this universe is a hiccup in Godís time. This universe is merely a project. And before this universe, Johnson concluded that God was alone. MORE

January 3, 2004

The Design

I have to see my eye doctor three times a year, and I am always left waiting in his examination room. The walls there are covered with pictures and diagrams of the human eye. I often gaze at these pictures with something approaching religious awe. The eyes that I see all around the walls were designed. And surely no one could fail to see that.

It was one particular diagram that started me thinking. It was a simple vertical cross section of the eye with everything named. It was there to help the doctor explain things to his patients. The chart itself was designed to make things as simple as possible, so it was easy to pick out the different parts of the eye.

I already knew what rods and cones were. A navy school explained that to me so I would understand night vision. Rods and cones are the light sensors arranged around the back of the eye in the retina. There are millions of them in each eye. Light enters the eye through the cornea, passes through the lens, and is focused on the surface of the retina. When light strikes the rods and cones, a tiny electric current is generated. The current travels along fibers to the optic nerve, hence to the vision center in the brain, and we see.

It sounds simple enough. At least thatís what I thought until I noticed that there were 150 million rods and cones, and only 1 million fibers in the optic nerve. When we look at an object, an image is projected on the retina and stimulates all 150 million rods and cones. Each of them has to carry itís own message to the brain so we can see the entire image that is projected there. Simple math tells me that 150 different signals have to travel down one optic nerve fiber. How is the traffic handled? MORE

January 2, 2004

The Mind of a Visionary

The list of predictions made by one Winston Churchill about the future course of the world leave one nearly speechless. James Humes reeled off a list of Churchillís predictions in a recent piece that leaves one wondering if he really did, as Richard Nixon said, have a crystal ball. Humeís title wondered what we might learn from this remarkable man.

It is true that Winston was a serious student of history and therefore knew what men had done in the past. It is not too great a stretch to imagine that they may well do the same things again. But Churchill was not the only world leader of his time to have been a student of history. It was not the study of history that made the difference, but his ability to weigh the past and think of how it might work out on the ground in the real world.

What made the difference between Churchill, who could see what was coming, and Chamberlain, who could not? Was it that Churchill was a man who preferred action, while Chamberlain was not? Was Winston more realistic than Chamberlain?

I think probably that the difference lay in something we might call the world view of the two men. What is not so easy, though, is to define what that view of the world might have been. Chamberlainís view seems to have been clouded by a vain hope for peace. The trauma of the Great War had left most of Europe exhausted and ready to pay almost any price for peace. Churchill seems to have realized that you canít buy peace by giving a tyrant what he wants. All that accomplishes is to increase his appetite.

Had Churchill been prime minister when Hitlerís troops marched into the Rhineland, World War II might have been averted entirely. All that was needed was for Hitler to have been resolutely opposed. History is clear on this matter. Hitlerís generals were plotting to remove him when Chamberlain flew to Munich and gave Hitler what he wanted.

One lesson of history seems to be that the resolute application of armed force against evil regimes is most effective when applied very early. History will judge the Iraq war in years to come, but judged by what we know about history today, it was fought a little too late. But thatís the weakness of democracy, isnít it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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