Monday, 31 October 2011

Turkish Dilemna

I've decided to switch gears a bit in this blog post, instead of blogging on politics constrained mostly to the US, I'm going to blog about the politics and foreign Policy of a country I am very interested in, Turkey. Turkey has been having all kinds of trouble lately, a couple weeks ago around 20 soldiers were killed in what I believe is the single most deadly attack on Turkey yet by PKK terrorists. Then, only a couple days later a large earthquake hit Eastern Turkey and mostly due to poor building structure (i.e not following building regulations) hundreds of people were killed. Truly a tragedy and I didnt think any more about it until a couple days ago when a Turkish acquaintance told me there are a number of people in Turkey who believe, and I am not making this up, that the earthquake was man-made. This reminded me of Turkey's inane love affair with conspiracy theories and brought me to the conclusion that the problem with Turkey's foreign policy is Turkey's domestic politics.
Turkey is in a better position than any other country in the world to positively influence the Middle East. On paper not only is it the right thing to do it is also quite possibly the most beneficial to Turkey. For example, stopping the murderous dictator Assad would put an end to the flow of refugees into Turkey and end a regime which has in the past and by some reports is again harboring and assisting the PKK, Turkey's public enemy #1. More democratic reform would also certainly help Turkey, Turkey ranks near the top in polls in most Arab countries as one of the most positively perceived countries. To Turkey's credit, it has given more forceful rhetoric than anyone else to the Syrian regime but military intervention still seems a little far fetched. The main detriment to Turkish foreign policy which is due almost completely to domestic politics is Turkey's sympathy for Hamas. Turkish politicians led by Erdogan sensationalized the Gaza Flotilla incident to win public support. It has pushed Turkish-Israeli relations to just a shade below hostile. At the same time it also alienates most other Arab regimes who can see Hamas for the vile organization that it is. They may or may not reject the tactics Hamas uses against Israel but unlike Turkey they don't turn a blind eye to the violent suppression of dissent in Gaza which would lead any objective person to conclude they really don't take the Palestinian peoples interests to heart. I could go on and talk about Turkish-American relations and Turkish-Iranian relations but I think this post would drag on a little too long.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Liberals these days

There are a myriad of issues I'd like to talk about but seeing as I dealt with one issue in particular just last night I decided to blog my reflections and comments to the experience. I was talking with a friend of mine last night and it was not too long before the discussion moved to politics. I believe the transition was made when he boasted of attending the Occupy Montreal demonstration the day prior. It wasn't long before we were arguing about the effect of America's global influence. One thing in particular which sticks out is when he disparagingly brought up the complex issue of Iraq and I replied "it was a noble cause," he actually laughed out loud. I stand by what I said and I'll clarify what I mean. It was noble to try to get rid of literally the worst human being on the planet. Period. Its wasn't easy to argue was a smart decision at the time and its harder still to say it was worth it now, but its not hard to argue it was a noble cause. To put it another way if I was given a button which systematically erased every genocidal, sadistic dictator on Earth my finger would not hesitate. Would yours? I don't blame him for it, in fact I suggest his over the top reaction was more due to the fact he just had never heard anyone make that point. I seriously doubt he had ever heard a moral argument for the Iraq War. Who would have thought it would be hard to make a argument on the morality of deposing a genocidal, sadistic, terrorist-sponsoring despot? To paraphrase the brilliant polemicist Douglas Murray, liberals are not used be being told they are morally wrong, they are used to being told they're wrong, in fact they are wrong a lot of the time, but they're not used to being morally wrong. Therein lies the shock.
But how did we get here? How is it a liberal position to look at the suffering of Iraqis under Saddam or Libyans under Qaddafi or Iranians under the Ayatollah and oppose any action against the dictators as meddling in the domestic affairs of others? That sounds to me like a conservative opinion. So much of far-left thought (particularly that flying around college campuses) is based on the conclusion that America is the boogeyman and any action by America is automatically bad. It makes supporting otherwise liberal ventures, such as the liberation of Iraq unsupportable. It's easy for you to rail against American power and influence while you live in a free and open society but had we not invaded Iraq, try explaining to a would-be liberal Iraqi imprisoned by Saddam in Abu Ghraib (yes it was a prison pre-US invasion, much nastier in fact) why he doesnt have your support.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

OWS is Playing with Fire

The first question one needs to ask the supports of Occupy Wall Street is what gives you the authority to represent the "99%." There is no dodging this question, it's what they all chant and its what they all have plastered on their signs, it's unavoidable. The obvious (and correct) answer is nothing, but before we move on lets ponder what effects relentless reinforcement of that idea will be. Any movement which divides the world into two groups, one the source of all evil and the other their virtuous victims, will never offer any realistic solutions to contemporary problems. Ignorance and impracticality is bad enough, but when the idea is that the evil group represents only 1% of society, it facilitates the plunge into conspiracy theories and other fiction not fit for expression. With such a warped world view how can you tackle the very real problem of income inequality? Its easy to lampoon but hard to solve. The only answer I've heard is imposing arbitrary limits on income after which all or a staggeringly high percentage of income is confiscated as tax. Such a suggestion is outlandish. At that point you could no longer call the US a capitalist country.
I'm always wary of representing a group of people based on their extremists and I recognise it may not be representative of the protestors as a whole but when more than third of protestors believe the US is "no better than Al Qaeda" my eyebrows instinctively move towards the sky. The question I'd like to pose is should we expect more out of a protest sparked by the magazine Adbusters who at best peddle conspiracies of corporate control and at worst are just straight anti-American and most probably racist. See a past article Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?” — an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy.
Occupy Wall Street and all its denunciations of capitalism and outrage at society, while not providing any solutions brings to mind a pertinent George Orwell quote: "So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot." Communism has been stood down since Orwell's time but the far left is still coming up with as impractical and as untested solutions to complex problems as ever.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Hank Williams Jr. and the Political Climate in the US

Hank Williams Jr. is a child in a man's body. This country singer turned political hack grabbed headlines earlier this month for an analogy this month he made on Fox and Friends in which he likened Obama to Hitler, before going on to refer to him as "the enemy." For the past two decades one of Junior's main revenue streams has been royalties for the song "All My Rowdy Friends" played in the opening of Monday Night Football which airs on ESPN (recently moved from ABC.) Unfortunately for Junior, ESPN didnt find the analogy particularly attractive and officially discarded the opener. Humorously, (though not perhaps to him) Hank cried that ESPN was treading "on the toes of freedom of speech," if nothing else this shows that Hank has no idea of the actual meaning of the US Bill of Rights, strange from a Patriotic man, no?

A few days after the indecent, he released a song in which he criticized not only Obama and ESPN but also Fox and Friends, the show that graciously gave Hank an outlet to peddle his views. The greatest offense I saw Fox and Friends commit against Hank was the prevalence of an awkward silence after his analogy, followed by one host almost reluctantly say "I don't understand that analogy actually..." The analogy goes as follows: in reference to Obama and Biden playing a round of golf with Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, Hank says, "it would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu."

I challenge anyone to read that quote without pausing and thinking "what?" then realizing there is no easy answer to your reflex question. 1) Hank could legitimately think that the genocidal slaughter of millions of innocent civilians is roughly equal to the evil of Obamacare (and other Obama policies.) 2) Hank could believe that the ideological gulf between conservatives and liberals is so big it warrants comparisons to the differences between genocidal perpetrator and genocidal victim. 3) Hank is a complete moron whose main fault is not knowing how to construct a coherent analogy. I believe it is a combination of number 2 and 3. In conjunction with Hank's concise description of the Obama administration as "the enemy" its fairly easy to tell that Hank is stunningly narrow-minded and has little concept of the world outside the US. To Hank, democratic politics is not the process by which we fairly create policy, it is war, if you don't win outright, you lose, negotiation is treason, maybe even we don't negotiate with terrorists? One might question whether he sees the situation as ideological polarization or belligerency. Combine that with an elementary grasp of the English language and you get a moronic analogy.

The reason why I even blog about it is because this type of language has become the norm in today's politics. Politicians, pundits, attention seekers are rewarded not for thoughtful arguments and realistic policy proposals but for emotive and brash rants which may or may not be cogent. I surmise that if we could add up everyone who agrees with Hank (or at least what they think Hank meant) the figure would disturb us. The regressive motion of the conservative movement makes me think of the man, the myth, the legend William F. Buckley Jr. If he were still alive and in control of the conservative movement, surely he wouldn't let the anti-logical arguments of Palin and Limbaugh and Hannity dictate conservative thought. Of course its not just conservatives, many liberals have responded with their own demagoguery. *cough occupy cough* I'll blog something along those lines soon.