Monday, May 25, 2009

Devil's Island


I could stop there, but insight isn't the only important thing. How do we deal with blood enemies? Understand their childhoods? Well, no. That's not how we deal with them. That's a small part of understanding them, but more important than understanding is what we do about the problem. If the answer is four, I don't care if I get to it by adding one and three, or two and two, or 3.27 and 0.73 -- just get to it. We're not talking about art, here, but about reality. We deal with blood enemies by stopping them. How they are stopped is an incidental.

Gitmo is exile. It's banishment, of someone who is not fit to live among civilized people. An island in the midst of the Lake of Fire is beyond the pale, for some reason. Perhaps a few moments too many passed when summary execution would stand up to the definition of summary. Exigent evidence grew stale, and bureaucracy took over. So be it. Some other, more terrene island will have to do. Gitmo, then.

Obama has come to understand this fact. The lad is teachable? So Charles Krauthammer would have it. "Observers of all political stripes are stunned by how much of the Bush national security agenda is being adopted by this new Democratic government. Victor Davis Hanson ... offers a partial list: 'The Patriot Act, wiretaps, e-mail intercepts, military tribunals, Predator drone attacks, Iraq (i.e. slowing the withdrawal), Afghanistan (i.e. the surge) -- and now Guantanamo.' [Liberal Jack Goldsmith] adds: rendition -- turning over terrorists seized abroad to foreign countries; state secrets -- claiming them in court to quash legal proceedings on rendition and other erstwhile barbarisms; and the denial of habeas corpus..."

Obama's latest flip-flop -- always a good thing for him to do on any of his core issues, if he has core issues -- has to do with the newly recognized efficacy of military commissions and tribunals, "accompanied by the usual Obama three-step: (a) excoriate the Bush policy, (b) ostentatiously unveil cosmetic changes, (c) adopt the Bush policy." Again, it doesn't matter how we get to the right answer. Just get there.

Elsewhere Krauthammer says Obama has a firstclass intellect and a firstclass temperament, and perhaps a thirdclass character. Close paraphrase. K is paraphrasing something said of FDR: great temperament, intellect, not so much. For my part, I remain unconvinced as to Obama's intellect. I think an impressive intellect requires an ability not only to manipulate words into pleasant or portentous-sounding sentences, but to express correct ideas clearly. It's not only about communication, but uncommunicated brilliance might as well be in the dark. Verbal fireworks is fine around cracker barrels or crowds of adoring fans, but it's glib.

Character shapes intellect. It has to do with the discipline to pursue truth, even if we want to disagree with the conclusion. Character agrees that four is four. We shouldn't be convinced only after the fact -- after, say, our bridge falls down because someone thought four was 390059503. Why, there's not even a four anywhere in that number! I think it's a prime!  How wrong can you be?  It's like on purpose.

We should weigh evidence according to past experience rather than theory. That's the problem with Obama. It's not just that it's all about theory. It's that his experience is limited.

He's not used to being challenged. Because he has used his firstclass intellect to overawe second-raters, his wrong theories have never been corrected. He was a lawyer, but he wasn't a litigator. See? There was never anyone else in the room to argue him down. That's necessary, for bright guys with theories. That's me, too. The difference between Obama and myself, aside from this little presidency thing, is that my ideas are shaped by evidence. And I suppose I've been shown do be wrong often enough for me to hold onto opinions loosely. There's another difference. My ideas are not my character. Obama's character is all in his ideas.

I was kidding though about being wrong -- have you ever known me to be wrong? I just needed to say that to make a rhetorical point.

How do we decide what's right? WWJD. Jesus talks about turning the other cheek, and about ocean bottoms and millstones tied around necks. Jesus talks about Hell. You don't get an infinite number of chances to be wrong. You get the duration of your lifetime. Then you get your eternity. So how do we deal with terrorists? In a harsh and civilized way. Effectively, and according to rules.

Gitmo? Please. Even Obama's Democrats won't close it now. Embarrassing for them? They are shameless, so embarrassment doesn't apply. They pick the strangest things to be passionate about. Obartionism. Anti-defense. Carbon. Gay and terrorist rights. Um, banana slugs? Whatever. Odd things. But the opposite of defense is not offense; the opposite of defense is defeat. Gitmo is not an offense. There is a Devils Island because there are devils.


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