Fair point, but

As Jack Straw endorses the Russians’ right to carry out pre-emptive strikes against terrorist bases, Norm wonders why we’re not willing to extend Israel the protection of these, err, norms.

At least, I assume that’s where his post is going. Although a problem with accepting pre-emption in international law is that if it applies to the US, Russia and Israel, then it would seem to apply to Iran and North Korea as well: the USA is substantially more of a threat to Iran than Saddam’s Iraq was to the USA, for example.

I don’t begrudge the USA, Russia or the Israelis the right to strike against imminent terror threats, assuming that they don’t abuse the right by making up lies and bombing whoever they like (this is something to which the Israelis are rather less prone than the other two actors).

One might claim some kind of ‘democratic force’ argument – that becuse Iran and North Korea are run by mad dictators, they don’t have pre-emption rights. This is also dubious: Russian democracy, never strong, seems to be petering out altogether; and US democracy also has certain flaws (did Fidel Castro really offer to send electoral observers to Florida this year, or did I imagine it?). Israel, once again, is fairly clean here.

Unless there’s another good theory I’ve missed, all we’re left with as a basis for world order is the ‘do what you like as long as America approves it’ club. And as any Latin American will happily tell you, “The USA is great. Also, I confess to being a communist. Please can you stop beating the soles of my feet now? Thank you, Mr CIA man.”

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After George W Bush’s inauguration, the Onion published an op-ed titled “Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over”. Someone has updated this by adding links to terrible things promised by the satirical Dubya and delivered by the real one…

(via Nick Barlow. Also, vote Kerry).

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Not Arab? Bomb away…

“There is something terribly wrong when the United States, after Sept. 11, fails to condemn the pardoning of terrorists and instead allows them to walk free on U.S. streets” – Marcela Sanchez, Washington Post.

You read that right. The current administration is happily welcoming foreign nationals who tried to assassinate a country’s president with a car bomb packed with high explosives, who killed people by blowing up an airliner, and who even carried out a bombing campaign in the mainland US.

But as we all know, only Muslims can be proper terrorists. If you’re a fanatical anti-Castro murderer, then you get welcomed with open arms – at least while Florida remains a swing state (via Harry’s Place).

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Kerry still ahead

According to the latest poll from the Wall Street Journal, John Kerry is still on track to win the electoral college 307/231.

I’m sure that the liberal media will take every care to make clear that Mr Kerry is still ahead, even following the Republicans’ convention bounce and the Swift Boat Liars’ best efforts. I’m also sure that the Pope is a giraffe and that monkeys will fly out of my arse.

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From the Obvious department

Tom Watson is unspeakably awful: “in West Bromwich, East, my neighbours are driven to misery by teenagers who create mayhem late at night. Although they conduct relatively minor acts of antisocial behaviour, they belong to the generation that can graduate to street crime and violent car-jacking.

If you replace everything from “driven to misery” onwards with “miserable whining bastards who think that young people socialising with their friends is roughly equivalent to axe-murder”, then he’d be entirely correct.

I’m also puzzled by the ‘generation’ thing – does he just mean ‘young people’? Or does he mean that people born in the late 1980s are more likely than others to become carjackers, perhaps because of residual evil transmitted by Mrs Thatcher in her final years?

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We heart urban elitism

“All the benefit that a New Yorker gets out of Kansas is no more than what he might get out of Saskatchewan, the Argentine pampas, or Siberia. But New York to a Kansan is not only a place where he may get drunk, look at dirty shows and buy bogus antiques; it is also a place where he may enforce his dunghill ideas upon his betters.” – HL Mencken, quoted here.

Indeed. In a world where national food self-sufficiency is no longer generally seen as vital, perhaps it’s time to return to the concept of city states. We can leave the rural backwaters to impose whatever crazed laws they like upon themselves…

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Happy arrival day

New York City has now had a sizeable Jewish population for 350 years. Mazel tov to all concerned, and here’s to over 350 more.

Although worryingly, the best-documented guide we have to how New York will look in a thousand years’ time doesn’t seem to feature a notable Jewish population (except for the Beastie Boys’ heads in jars).

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All must have links

Bobby from the sadly defunct (although via its comments section, finding a new role as a paradise for discount Viagra salesmen) PolitX has a fairly new blog called Blast!. Worth a read.

Other interesting new-ish people for you to click on the right hand side of the blog are Damian Counsell, whose Pootergeek blog has a rubbish name, and who looks like Dr Evil, but is well worth reading, and grumpy right-wing American John Cole. Based on the well-known principle of always balancing one’s Coles, I’ve also added a link to Famous Middle East Expert (TM) Juan Cole. Finally, with a horrible template, a name-pun almost as bad as Ed Thomas’s, and a lot of WoT extremism (with which I disagree, but which is well-expressed and very un-gung-ho), comes Eric the Unread.

I’d also like to pelt Matt Yglesias with rotten tomatoes for disabling his comments section. And for being younger than me, more respected as a writer, and having a better job. I bet I can outdrink him, though.

Finally, it seems one can’t even give Gmail addresses away these days. But I’m going to try – so let me know if you want one.

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The point

John Quiggin at Crooked Timber: “The appeal of radical Islamism is similar to that held by revolutionary Marxism, in that it purports to wrap lots of separate struggles into a single encompassing global struggle in which victory is pre-ordained.

He’s talking about the appeal to people who become radical Islamists – but he’s also right about the appeal to people who become radical anti-Islamists. If you’re a would-be authoritarian, it’s much easier to paint everyone involved in all the struggles as an Islamist/Communist, rather than accepting that what we’re really seeing is a set of local conflicts with a thin transnational layer on top.

In this context, the claims initially made by Russian officials, rejected by survivors, and now apparently abandoned, about 10 of the Ossetia school attackers being Arabs are understandable: it makes the conspiracy story that much more convincing. And like the Saddam/AQ links, even once they’ve been comprehensibly falsified, most people will still remember them.

Which is why I fear Dr Quiggin’s excellent two-step War on Terror guide will be ignored by the people in charge:

What’s needed is to isolate, as far as possible, the extreme Islamists committed to an endless crusade against the West. There is no response to them except to kill them before they kill us and try to avoid doing anything that will help their recruiting.

Meanwhile, we should deal with the various national grievances as best we can, trying to avoid making them part of a battlefront between Islam and the West.

For those with comprehension problems, that’s “avoid making them part of a battlefront”, rather than “bomb the crap out of them until they become terrorists out of revenge”.

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