Towards A Good Samaritan World

Friday, December 30, 2005


Catholic Charities is distressed by the new immigration bill:

A tough new illegal immigration bill that just cleared the U.S. House of Representatives this month has outraged advocate groups and church relief agencies who fear their work with new immigrants could become illegal if the measure passes the Senate and becomes law.

The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), proposes erecting a 698-mile wall across one-third of the U.S.-Mexico border, turning illegal immigrants into felons and making it a felony to shield or offer support to undocumented immigrants.

That provision is unnerving organizations such as Catholic Charities immigrant services in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

"We are one of two departments mandated by the church to help the stranger," said the agency's head, Carmen Maquilon, adding that the mandate also comes from Bible passages such as Matthew 25. "It comes from Rome. It's almost the essence of what our department stands for."

Not for the first time, it's the laws of God vs. the laws of men. Christians, remember the Prophet Daniel, Biblical model of righteous civil disobedience. If he disdained to fear the lion's den, why should you fear prison for the sake of what is right? Hire these people, persecuted by the wicked, in your businesses. If it becomes necessary, open your homes to them.

Of course, many Christians already are giving charity to illegal immigrants, or providing work for them. He Who seeth what is done in secret will reward you openly.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Wall Street Journal blasts the House's borders bill. And Bush gets a well-deserved slap too:

President Bush has said repeatedly that he'll only sign a comprehensive immigration reform bill; that means creating legal pathways for foreign labor to enter the country and fill jobs Americans simply won't do anymore. Regrettably, the White House, in a sop to the throw-'em-all-out faction, praised the House vote. By voicing no disapproval of these over-the-top provisions, Mr. Bush legitimizes the forces that will make it hard to pass useful reform. And so a highly divisive problem may fester without solution into the next elections. At some point, the president of the United States will have to get behind the Statue of Liberty or Tom Tancredo's wall.

Hear hear!

Bush is behaving in a Pontius Pilate-like fashion on immigration: in his heart he wants to do the right thing, but he is too much of a coward to stand up to the forces of darkness.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Niall Ferguson writes an article which concludes:

If the history of 20th-century Europe is anything to go by, all the ingredients are now in place for the biggest conflagration in Middle Eastern history. The only good news is that the first thing to go up in smoke will be the theory of a democratic peace.

Grrr. The last claim would be justified if Ferguson were talking about the scenario in which democratic Iraq attacks Israel. Instead, he has argued that:

what the democratic peace theory doesn't tell you is the number of countries that have plunged into civil war in the aftermath of democratisation...

...the scenario my ex-pupils really need to worry about [is that] democracy lays bare the deep differences between Shi'ites, Kurds and Sunnis. You end up not with a democratic peace but with a democratic war as the Kurds take up arms to fight for independence, and the Sunnis do likewise to reassert their traditional dominance over the more populous and oil-rich Shi'ite provinces.

Ferguson has highlighted the right danger. But this scenario is not a counter-example to the theory of democratic peace. Democratic peace predicts, not that democracies are always able to maintain civil peace, but that wars between (separate, sovereign) democracies never occur. Iraq could plunge into civil war without undermining the democratic peace at all. And Ferguson is a historian. He should know better than to misunderstand the democratic peace in such a basic way.

The worst part is not just that Ferguson falsely claims that the democratic peace is likely to "go up in smoke," but that he calls this "good news." Does Ferguson want democracies to go to war with each other? Surely he would say no if asked, but I think this may be a Freudian slip. Ferguson is a historian, and he likes his history to be exciting-- that's why he loves the British empire so much. And he may not be the only one. I'm always puzzled by why so many people want to dismiss the democratic peace, always with inadequate grounds. Is it because people find a democratc, peaceful future boring?

Friday, December 16, 2005


My prediction: in the course of the next generation, the wall that the Republican Congress has just voted to build along the Mexican border will, like the Berlin Wall, reverberate throughout the world and throughout history as the symbol of a great wrong. Shame on the Republican Party.

Republicans deserve to lose all the Latino voters for this.


Another landmark. It is too early to say that the transition to democracy is complete, and yet, if we have to look back a few years from now and give a date when the transition to democracy in Iraq was completed, that date is likely to be: Thursday, December 15, 2005.

John Burns' description of the day is a moving one. And the Iraqis don't have time for the phony disagreements that Democrats and left-wing pundits use to mask a real consensus:

"Let's have stability, and then the Americans can go home," said Mr. Sattar, the store owner. Told that this sounded similar to President Bush's formula for a troop withdrawal, he replied: "Then Bush has said it correctly".

I look forward to the day, maybe not too many years hence, when the Americans are in Iraq, not as soldiers, but as tourists, traders, and exchange students.

Skeptics like Fred Kaplan remain. Fair enough. Kaplan writes:

A new book, Electing To Fight, by two political scientists—Edward Mansfield of the University of Pennsylvania and Jack Snyder of Columbia—reinforces this pessimism. The book argues that, while mature democracies do tend to be more peaceful and almost never go to war with one another, emerging democracies tend to be more violent and aggressive than any other type of regime—and are more likely to erupt in civil war or revert to autocratic rule.

... Working from an exhaustive historical database, Mansfield and Snyder outline the conditions for a successful democratization, among them: a literate populace; a fairly prosperous and diverse economy; and a set of democratic institutions, not least a state apparatus capable of mediating and administering disputes among competing social and political groups.

Apply the list to Iraq. In the winter 2005/06 issue of the National Interest (due out next week), Mansfield and Snyder do just that, and the results come up all zeros.

But Kaplan has left out one huge factor:
the Americans
. Only two nations have been politically reconstructed by the Americans after a totalitarian episode: Germany and Japan. Both are durable, wealthy democracies, where beforehand, any pundit would have said the culture had powerful anti-democratic aspects. Two cases do not make a rule. But they do signal that the routine cross-national regressions that political scientists run are worthless in Iraq. A huge amount of democratic learning has taken place in the past two and a half years. Great democratic momentum has been built up. Iraqis want to live the dream, and they won't easily let it be taken away. (That said, corruption and terrorism will be intractable problems.)

Kaplan adds:

Beyond Iraq, Mansfield and Snyder's analysis raises profound doubts—as if enough hadn't already been kicked up—over President George W. Bush's declared policy of spreading democracy across the Middle East. The premise of this idea, laid out in Bush's second inaugural address, comes down to this: Democracies are peaceful; thus, turning hostile regimes into democratic states serves not just our moral ideals but our national-security interests.

No, it doesn't. Democratizing countries may be more likely to fight, but they are not more likely to fight other democracies. The "democratic peace" holds: no two democracies have ever gone to war with each other. We're a democracy. So spreading democracy does enhance our national security. And if some of these new democracies want to take on the world's remaining dictatorships, more power to 'em!

(However, it's true that a democratic episode can release energies that are then channeled in malign directions after democracy is overturned-- Weimar-turned-Nazi Germany is Exhibit A. If democracy does fail in Iraq, then Iraq may become a dangerous country.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The House od Representatives is on the verge of passing an immigration bill. Is it good or bad? On the one hand, the NYTimes writes:

The Republican-controlled House is poised to pass one of the toughest border security measures in more than a decade, cracking down on illegal immigrants and their employers and defying President Bush's call for a comprehensive bill that would grant millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States a right to work here temporarily.

The measure, expected to clear the House this week, would for the first time make it a federal crime to live in the United States illegally. That provision would turn millions of immigrants into felons, ineligible to win any legal status. Currently, living in this country without a document like a visa or a green card is a violation of civil immigration law, not criminal law.

This is grotesque. A huge step backwards in civil rights. If this means what I think it means, I'm tempted to say (though perhaps it's an overstatement) that our government will cross the line between just and unjust and forfeit the allegiance of people of good will. And yet, J.D. Hayworth writes:

The vote will set our nation on an almost irreversible course toward the enactment of a guest-worker amnesty plan that will legitimize the invasion of the more than 10 million illegal aliens already here and open our borders to unknown millions more.

The scheme is a classic bait-and-switch. First, pass a supposed "get-tough" enforcement bill in the House on Dec. 15 so members can head home feeling they've "done something" about illegal immigration. Second, let the Senate add a guest-worker amnesty plan to the bill in conference early next year. Finally, bring this completely different and deeply flawed bill back to the House for final passage.

If this "tough" bill does enable the passage of a guest-worker program, would that be worth it? And is there something to Lenin's statement: "the worse, the better?" If the government asks people to look on illegal immigrants as "felons" will this unmask the injustice of the system?

I'm against this bill, but man, the politics of this issue is becoming confusing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Much of the debate about torture to date has been "pious", that is, sanctimonious, uncritical, euphemistic in that it swept the hard questions under the rug. I'm glad that the debate is becoming more philosophical. Charles Krauthammer, in "The Truth About Torture," wrote a thoughtful defense of torture in extreme cases which makes anti-torture piety untenable. A philosophical case against torture is needed.

Andrew Sullivan has just published a pretty good one at the New Republic.

The infliction of physical pain on a person with no means of defending himself is designed to render that person completely subservient to his torturers. It is designed to extirpate his autonomy as a human being, to render his control as an individual beyond his own reach. That is why the term "break" is instructive. Something broken can be put back together, but it will never regain the status of being unbroken--of having integrity. When you break a human being, you turn him into something subhuman...

What you see in the relationship between torturer and tortured is the absolute darkness of totalitarianism... Torture uses a person's body to remove from his own control his conscience, his thoughts, his faith, his selfhood. The CIA's definition of "waterboarding"--recently leaked to ABC News--describes that process in plain English: "The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt." The ABC report then noted, "According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the waterboarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said Al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two and a half minutes before begging to confess."

Preach it, brother! But Sullivan weakens his case later by arguing this:

What our practical endorsement of torture has done is to remove that clear boundary between the Islamists and the West and make the two equivalent in the Muslim mind.

Absurd. First, Arabs are suckers for conspiracy theories and many of them would believe the worst about us regardless of our actual behavior. Second, Arabs are more used to torture and less shocked by it. Yes, I'm generalizing, based on a smattering of things I've read in newspaper articles and remarks I've heard and the intuition they've given rise to; but the burden of proof is on Sullivan here. I'll go further: Iraqis find our restraint foolish and quixotic. They may be wrong, but that's their prevailing view.

Or again:

No one should ever underestimate the profound impact that the conduct of American troops in World War II had on the citizens of the eventually defeated Axis powers. Germans saw the difference between being liberated by the Anglo-Americans and being liberated by the Red Army. If you saw an American or British uniform, you were safe.

But 1) Germans and Japanese did not engage in suicide-bombing, 2) in this war, too, Iraqis know very well that there is a huge behavioral difference between the behavior of American soldiers and that of al-Qaeda killers. And the practices that most alienate Iraqis-- night-time raids of Iraqi households, say-- are non-torturous. The ones who get tortured are terrorists whose hearts and minds are good and lost anyway.

When Andrew argues against torture on both ethical and pragmatic grounds, he's hedging his bets about the persuasiveness of the moral case, and thus weakening it. Andrew does not ask the reader to abolish torture even at the expense of his own personal security. Instead, Andrew argues that it will benefit the reader's personal security to abolish torture. But this is an empirical question, and no wise reader would be satisfied to take Andrew's word for it. So, if abolishing torture will us less safe, should we do it anyway? Andrew signals that he is unwilling to say "Yes," full stop.

Sullivan and Krauthammer also differ on the "migration" of torture: Sullivan thinks that if it is legalized in extreme cases, a slippery slope will make it applicable everywhere. But Sullivan seems, de facto, to suggest that a government official in the "ticking bomb" situation should simply violate the law. Now, if this argument is spoken in public as part of the debate, it affects the meaning of the law. It says, "we're abolishing torture, but we're not totally serious; in the 'ticking bomb' case, you may be right to use it, though you'll have to face the courts." Now, which would be more likely to migrate: practices that are legally sanctioned but only under strictly defined conditions (Krauthammer) or practices that are universally illegal but understood to be de facto acceptable in extreme cases? I would say the latter.

Sullivan's philosophical case against torture may succeed, but he gratuitously weakens it by adding a pragmatic one.

I'm going to take a turn at policing my own side's rhetoric. Here's Bush:

"Our nation's first effort at a governing charter, the Articles of Confederation, failed," the president said in a speech at a hotel in the shadow of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was debated.

"It took years of debate and compromise before we ratified our Constitution and inaugurated our first president. It took a four-year civil war, and a century of struggle after that, before the promise of our Declaration was extended to all Americans," he said.

Like the Vietnam analogy, this historical analogy to the American revolution is quite misleading. The British rule that we overthrew was far more benign than Saddam's rule was. We also had foreign help (the French) but we, not foreigners, took the initiative in the Revolutionary War. And there were no suicide bombers or improvised explosive devices. There was no counterpart to Zarqawi in that war.

More importantly, the form of government we adopted then was new. A federal, representative democracy had never before existed. The Iraqis, by contrast, are adopting a form of government that is most widely practiced, and, at the ideological level, hardly has any plausible competitors. We were embarking on a revolutionary experiment. The Iraqis are escaping from a (far more malign) revolutionary experiment, and converging to normalcy.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Andrew is also shocked by the news of race riots in Sydney. I agree with him... except... But we part ways when he goes on to remark:

what is the world coming to?


I have good reason to be glad I wasn't born an Australian.

Cheer up, Andrew! Race riots are a chronic affliction of many societies, but they're not necessarily getting worse. Countries like America and (even more so!) Australia are absorbing huge numbers of immigrants. Here's some good news as reported by the Center for Immigration Studies. (It's not good news from their point of view, because they're anti-immigration... I disagree with them, but I'm guessing they still probably have their facts right.)

The 35.2 million immigrants (legal and illegal) living in the country in March 2005 is the highest number ever recorded -- two and a half times the 13.5 million during the peak of the last great immigration wave in 1910.

Around the turn of the 20th century, inter-racial "quiet wars" were a feature of many US cities. But those turned out to be growing pains, and eventually the many cultural streams joined into a coherent national American culture. That can happen again... only this time race riots are happily rare in the United States. Australia's absorbing even more immigrants than the US, so it's sad but not surprising that there will be some problems with integration. I'm confident that Australia can overcome them.

Australia's economy has been booming for a long time; it's absorbing lots of immigrants from all over the world; it's people are adventuresome travelers; its skillful and courageous foreign policy earns it an influence out of proportion to its population. Every country has its faults. But if I were asked to name a single country in the world that others would do well to emulate, which one would I pick? Australia.

My friend Andrew, a fellow student from my Harvard days, is blogging again, here. Shared ideology is not the basis of our friendship. Here's one post:

Op-ed by Richard Cohen, an ol' fave of mine from my gilded months in the District. Truth be told, I've read the column - or ones that sound an awful lot like it - a thousand times before. But hey, why the hell not? The Great American War Propaganda Machine has been in overdrive for the past couple of weeks and speaking truth to that is a column that writes itself. Some nice nuggets of rhetoric in there. Exempli Gratia: (1) "The Sunni insurgents have no designs on America. And to say, as Cheney did, that terrorists "believe that, by controlling an entire country, they will be able to . . . establish a radical Islamic empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia" is to give credence to the fantasies of Islamic nut cases"...

First, contra Cohen, in 1924 a certain German populist nutcase named Adolf Hitler wrote a book called Mein Kampf. No one gave it any "credence" at the time. I don't write this because I'm an alarmist about radical Islamism. I'm not. But surely, to "give credence to the fantasies of nutcases," so as to nip in the bud attempts to realize them, is a good thing, right?

But second: Andrew, honestly! "The Great American War Propaganda Machine?" Give me a break! Bush and Cheney start defending their policies in speeches and it's a "propaganda machine?" Don't they have a right to make their case? Don't politicians have freedom of speech too? Or maybe Andrew is talking about the blogosphere and right-wing magazines? But doesn't freedom of speech mean the freedom to support the government's policy as well as to criticize it?

There's no Great War Propaganda Machine. There are politicians defending policies, and citizens who agree with them who write blogs and magazine articles. And there's plenty of people on the other side, including, arguably, most of the legacy media. That's just as it should be. Shame on Andrew for trying to delegitimize debate.


For a little while I couldn't figure out why it was that Europeans' reaction to Condi Rice (she was mistrusted because of the "secret CIA prisons" that seem to exist in some countries in Europe's ex-communist east) annoyed me. A half-formed objection seemed to lurk in my head, but what was it exactly? Was I just a "my country, right or wrong" nationalist?

And then it hit me: These are the same people who wanted to leave Saddam Hussein in power.

A little historical background: Saddam Hussein was the dictator of Iraq for thirty-five years, one of the most totalitarian rulers in the world in his time, who killed millions of Iraqis, plus invading his neighbors and gratuitously exposed his people to terrible suffering under UN economic sanctions in order to keep out weapons inspectors (even though Saddam actually had far fewer WMDs than was thought). He was removed by the US and its allies in 2003, paving the way for elections and a democratic constitution in 2005. US troops were welcomed as liberators, a fact which was televised all over the world, so that those of us who are old enough to remember these things, and who are intellectually mature enough to be resistant to the desperate brainwashing attempt that has been undertaken by the mainstream media since then, can bear witness to that fact. (The revisionist historians have their work cut out for them if our children are to know the truth.)

Under Saddam Hussein, human rights were nil, and hideous atrocities took place. Since his fall, Iraqis have acquired a gamut of new freedoms, and are struggling their way towards the enshrining of these freedoms in law and political practice.

If you care about human rights, you support this. If you really care about human rights, you support this.

I'm going to make a statement that maybe very few will agree with, maybe it will make a lot of people mad, but to me its logic is just too powerful to be resisted. Those who opposed the war in Iraq have no standing to talk about human rights. Those who wanted to leave Saddam in power have no standing to talk about human rights. Or at any rate, I won't listen to them. I can't listen to them. The cognitive dissonance is deafening.

Moral indignation against secret CIA prisons in Europe may be a creditable emotion, or maybe it's an untenable moral absolutism that, if converted into a generally applied principle, would render liberal civilization unable to defend itself. I don't know. But if moral indignation against secret CIA prisons is not coupled with much greater moral indignation against Saddam Hussein and his crimes, and with rejoicing in his fall, then the moral indignation against CIA prisons is exposed as phony, a tool for some other end.

Of course, not all Europeans opposed the war in Iraq, so some of them do have standing to object to the secret prisons in eastern Europe. Here a distinction is called for: Europeans vs. EUropeans. Europe is a great civilization, or blend of civilizations, a tapestry of nations and cultures, with a mostly Christian heritage and a deep and brilliant historico-cultural legacy. EUrope is an ideological construct, which aspires to bind the nations of Europe into a supra-national political entity, which views consultation as a substitute for warfare, not in some cases (a universal and necessary belief) but in all cases, which has evolved its own new set of moral imperatives, including the social welfare state and the abolition of the death penalty, which sees the outside world through the lens of post-colonial leftism, which protects its own farmers at the expense of the world's poor farmers having a potential lucrative market in Europe, but meanwhile channels much development aid to poor people's governments. Europe did not necessarily oppose the war, but EUrope did.

To the extent that Europeans speak as Europeans, not EUropeans, they are entitled to a hearing. But anyone who is tainted with unrepentant solidarity with Chirac and Schroeder can only be treated with contempt when they speak of human rights. Of course this contempt should be veiled, not out of politeness but out of self-interest since EUropeans have some power, in refined diplo-speak, and lawyerisms, if necessary. Like Condi did. Good job.

UPDATE: Andrew Beath comments: "So Nelson Mandela has 'no standing to talk about human rights'? Try telling him that."

Okay, there's one exception here: principled pacifists have a pass. If you think that peaceful love will overcome, I admire that. I admire Mahatma Gandhi. I admire Martin Luther King. I admire Nelson Mandela.

I've love to talk to Mandela and ask him: What do you have to say to those who suffered worse than you in Iraqi prisons until they were liberated? What do you say to those whose relatives were disappeared by the regime? Were they wrong to desire their freedom? Were they wrong to give flowers to the American soldiers? What about Iraqi exiles like Allawi and Chalabi? Were they wrong to try to bring in Americans to invade? You struggled for your whole life to bring freedom to your people. Do you want to deny that to another people? Why don't Iraqis deserve what you and your fellow South Africans, at long last, have gained?

Maybe you object to the violence with which liberation was accomplished? Do you think that everyone state will eventually succumb to non-violence resistance and peaceful love? Would that that were true! You are alive today because the regime that you lived under, though grotesque, was not the worst of them. It was not Stalin's Soviet Union. You lived to become the beloved leader of a liberation movement because there was humanity and liberality in the apartheid regime, even if for far too long there was also terrible injustice for blacks. If you had lived under Saddam, you would have been long since dead, and forgotten.

But of course Nelson Mandela has "standing to comment on human rights." My bad. I let my indignation against Saddam's crimes blind me for a second.

Friday, December 09, 2005

McCain for Veep, 2006

While I have nothing against Cheney, I think it would be smart for the Republicans to appoint McCain Vice President just about now. A Vice President McCain would change the party's "forward offer" by making McCain's nomination for president in 2008 likely. If Bush is sort of a lame duck, McCain would be the anti-lame duck, bringing a lot of political capital to the White House, with good odds of having an eleven-year stint at the White House. Of course, McCain is not a Veep personality, being a maverick, not inclined to subordinate his agenda to someone else's. But he doesn't need to subordinate his agenda, because he genuinely agrees with Bush on the biggest things, namely Social Security reform and the war. My advice would be for Bush to let McCain have his head in the Veep spot. Let him pursue his maverick-y projects, even if Bush partly disagrees with him sometimes. Bush's legacy will depend, above all, on the Iraq War/GWOT and on whether the Republicans keep the White House in 2008-- and of course it would get a huge boost if Social Security reform is passed.

But of course this is fantasy...

Thursday, December 08, 2005


One of the interesting things about reading Bush's speeches is that Bush is a better reporter than the reporters are. His speech is full of facts, and I'll be ridiculed for saying this but I stand by it: there's less spin in your average Bush speech than in your average NY Times article.

However, this definition of victory shoots too high:

"[V]ictory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation."

Is the first victory-criterion, that "terrorists... can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy" even something that has been achieved in the United States? Depends on how you parse the words. No: the US, a democracy, is still threatened by terrorists. Yes: realistically, while terrorists pose a threat to American lives, it's implausible to imagine them destroying our democratic form of government.

Which does he mean?

Speechwriters weigh every word. I think it's a fair assumption that if a phrase can be interpreted in two ways, they intend for it to be interpreted in both ways. For the sake of plausible deniability, Bush, or his defenders, could claim that he only meant that victory is when Iraq's democracy is stable enough to withstand terrorism. But many listeners will hear that victory is when terrorism in Iraq is eliminated altogether, and that is not a realistic goal. It might-- just possibly-- happen, but that depends on the terrorists, not us. That's asymmetric warfare for you.

I support the administration, the war, the troops, and Iraqi democracy. But someone needs to lower the bar a bit, and explain that an Iraqi democracy which, like Israel, faces an intractable terrorism problem, is still a victory. Some of Bush's rhetoric is escapist.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Howard Dean has two big flaws: 1) he's a liberal bigot, whose contempt for Republicans resembles racism; and 2) he's chillingly indifferent to the welfare of the people of Iraq. Other than that, I like him.

I particular like the following:

Dean said the government should have an "earned legalization" program in which immigrants who contribute to society and pay taxes should be able to earn the right to become citizens.

As the Iraq issue fades over time, I could warm to Dean.

Friday, December 02, 2005

It seems that Bush's poll numbers hit bottom in early November and are now rebounding. Which makes sense. There's a sort-of consensus on Iraq, and the economy is on a roll.