Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Gaza Pullout

I came across 2 excellent articles in the WSJ today about the Gaza pullout. While we could argue who owns the land all day long, ultimately the way the IDF handled a very tense situation should be applauded. The key idea I see is
Ultimately, the settlers were either escorted or carried, sobbing, onto buses. But their rabbi, stressing the need for closure, requested permission to address the soldiers, and the battalion commander remarkably agreed. So it happened that 500 troops and 100 settlers stood at attention, with Israeli flags fluttering, while the rabbi spoke of the importance of channeling this sorrow into the creation of a more loving and ethical society. "We are all still one people, one state," he said. Together, the evicted and the evictors, then sang "Hatikvah," the national anthem--"The Hope."

It's an incredibly heartwrenching scene, just like what happened to the Palestinians. Again, ordinary people are being evicted from their homes and it's tough to see. There was a bit of a difference between the Israeli settlements and their Palestinian neighbors, and that was that the Israelis had some semblance of property rights. While the kibbutzim were owned by the state, the people there had yards, houses, and so forth. On the Palestinian side, the UN and the PA have crammed their people into refugee camps (for over 50 years!) and George Melloan's view on these places is pretty spot on:
The concrete hovels in these camps long ago became breeding grounds for Arab radicalism. The militant Arab socialist states that gained ascendancy under Soviet tutelage in the 1960s and 1970s wanted it that way. Yasser Arafat, chosen by these outsiders to "lead" the Palestinians, never deviated from his goal of mobilizing the discontented wards of the U.N. to drive the Jews into the sea. The Palestinians, in short, had few chances to express their own individuality and creativity unless they were lucky enough to escape the camps and find homes in the Arab emirates, Britain or the U.S.

Ultimately, this chapter in the story of Israel is over, but another one is beginning. Will Sharon's pullout from Gaza make things better or worse? Will Abbas step up to the plate and do what Arafat couldn't/wouldn't? At the moment, while Abbas looks better, I don't know if he can or will control Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or Al Aqsa, but only time will tell.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Palestinian Lie

The New York Times has printed a few things – an Op-Ed and a front page article on the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. They both boil down to “Israelis stole Palestinian land.” While I know that Yassir Arafat and the rest of the Arab nations have perpetuated this view for over 50 years now, it’s interesting to go back and see who stole (or rather attempted to steal) land since the UN partitioning of Britain’s Palestinian Mandate in 1947.
Jews fleeing from Europe became a majority in many areas of Palestine from the rise of Nazi Germany until 1947. They bought their land, worked on it, and did their own thing. Of course, they also had some conflicts with their 3000-year-old enemies, the Palestinians. Both groups had legitimate claims on the land, but it came down to whoever owned it had it. In an attempt to pull a Solomon, the UN split the land into semi-equal areas that roughly equated to where the different groups lived and made Jerusalem a city under UN control.
The big problem came when various Middle Eastern nations (Syria, Transjordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen) attacked the Jewish nation. Their stated objective was to drive the Jews out. Of course, there were hard-line Jewish elements that caused problems as well, especially in Jerusalem, but for the most part the IDF were fighting a defensive war. Nevertheless, a numerically inferior IDF prevailed over a Trans-Arab army. During this time, the Arab nations told the Palestinians to leave to protect them. Palestinian civilians fled across the borders into Egypt and Transjordan, deserting their homes. When the smoke cleared, Israel was much larger in size (although it was still only 6 miles across at its narrowest point). In addition, the West Bank was controlled by Transjordan (soon renamed Jordan) and Gaza was occupied by Egypt.
In 1967, the Arab nations began preparations for another attack on Israel to regain what was lost and more. Israel launched a preemptive strike and took the West Bank from Jordan, Gaza and the Sinai from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria (all of which were needed when the Arabs attacked again in 1973).
The Palestinians were culpable in all these battles. They were on the side of the Arabs and they lost the battle as well as more land in each successive war. The Israelis didn’t steal it, so much as the Palestinians lost it (Israel wouldn’t have invaded if they didn’t feel they needed it for security). Of course, now it’s hard for them to give back, but the Palestinians haven’t made it easy to do.
Israel can’t be seen as giving in to terror, so they can’t really cede the land until the intifada stops. Of course, the intifada also had the side effects of Israel walling off the occupied territories and eliminating jobs for Palestinians, but of course it’s not easy to think about those downsides to the glorious struggle.
I have to run, so I may continue in another entry, but the bottom line is that the Palestinians brought most of this misery on themselves.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The link between Imperial Japan and Jihadist Islam

The Wall Street Journal had an excellent Op-Ed today that briefly discusses the links between World War II Japan and the various sects of Islam that advocate martyring yourself to kill others. The link is below, but because the WSJ is a pay site, here's the money quote:

Islam and Shintoism have very little in common, the one coming out of the Old Testament tradition and other with roots in far-eastern Buddhist and Confucian philosophies. But in the hands of power- hungry politicians, any belief capable of stirring human emotions will serve the purpose.

Yet another weapon familiar to us today is the inducement of youngsters to commit suicide to further the political goals of crazed power seekers. It was in Japan where the "kamikaze" was born. The word means "divine wind" and was derived from a typhoon that saved Japan from an invasion fleet in 1281, according to legend. In the late stages of the Pacific war, it described the young men who volunteered to crash airplanes into American warships to bestow honor and glory on themselves and their families.

The Japanese military chose not to use experienced pilots, who were in short supply. But they had no trouble recruiting idealistic young men to learn the rudiments of flying and then take to the air in obsolete aircraft loaded with a 250-pound bomb. The young martyrs were similar in purpose to the youths terrorists recruit today to explode bomb vests in crowded places, exploiting that latent impulse that, once awakened, propels some youths toward seeking a glorious, self-inflicted death.

By war's end, Japan had sent almost 4,000 youngsters out over the ocean to be shot down or consummate a fiery, metal-wrenching life's end crashing into an American ship. The U.S. Air Force credits them with sinking 34 Navy ships and damaging 368 others, killing 4,900 U.S. sailors and wounding about the same number.

That was a heavy toll but it didn't win the war, just as it is highly unlikely that today's brainwashed martyrs will change the course of history. One reason a victory is unlikely can be adduced from what happened in Japan after its government surrendered to U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur. It took awhile for the militarist fanatics, who claimed they had been betrayed by the emperor, to quiet down. But once they did, a new Japanese leadership class began, with MacArthur's guidance, to build a new Japan.

Recalling the Kamikazes of 60 Years Ago

If we were able to turn around the kamikaze culture in Japan, why can't we do it in the Middle East?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hiroshima Revisionism

With the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II upon us, it's time for another round of revisionist history. As usual, it tends to focus on the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The LA Times has an editorial on the extreme dovish side of the argument that a) it didn't save lives and b)it was an unnecessary show of force against the Soviets. Let's look at this a little closer, shall we?
A) It didn't save lives
This is the argument that seems the weakest of all to me. The number killed by the direct force of the bombs and the subsequent radiation poisoning was in the vicinity of 250,000. For the sake of argument, let's say that lasting fallout, combined with genetic disorders and whatnot brought that up to 500,000. That's a big number. Nevertheless, it's still less than the number of casualties from the invasion of Japan. US Military planners based their figures on the invasion of Okinawa. For Olympic, they assumed 35% casualties, of which 1/5 would be deaths. It came out to be around 50,000 US deaths and 250,000 casualties. Then, in addition to the US deaths, 5 Japanese soldiers usually died for every 1 American, which would give the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces 250,000 deaths. So far, we're at 300,000 deaths for Olympic alone. Of course, those numbers could be massaged up and down - according to Gerhard Weinberg's Herculean work, A World At Arms, kamikaze resistance at Okinawa was relatively light because the Japanese were saving their aircraft for the final fight on Kyushu and Honshu. Even with that relatively light resistance, 250 ships were hit with kamikaze aircraft. Now imagine 5000 kamikaze planes attacking the 800 ship invasion force of the 5th Fleet. A conservative estimate would be damage on 20% of those ships, but with 5000 kamikaze at their disposal, it almost certainly would have been larger. With the high proportion of landing craft and oilers in the fleet, it could have gotten ugly really quick. This doesn't even scratch the surface of suicide implements the Japanese had built - suicide motorboats, suicide torpedos, suicide bombers (a forerunner of the modern Islamic Fundamentalist - they would strap a bomb to their chest and lie between the treads of tanks to disable the tank and kill the crew), suicide cruisers, battleships, and destroyers. It would have been bad for the US, but it would have been devistating for the Japanese. Note that we haven't included civilian casualties yet. Increased firebombing of Kyushu cities, combined with the Emperor's edict to defend the country, would have caused an additional 5 civilian deaths for each US death at a minimum. That brings the combined death total to 500,000+ for Olympic alone.
Coronet, the invasion of Honshu, would have been even more disastrous. Remember, the Japanese at the time believed the Emperor to be God incarnate, so transfer the current Wahabbi-style Islam of Osama bin Laden to Japan and you have an idea of the level of fanatacism we would have expected. Barring the capitulation of Showa, a million man invasion force would have landed on Honshu in Spring 1946 and we could have expected a similar situation to Olympic on Kyushu - 35% casualties, 1/5 of those deaths, 10 Japanese dead for each US soldier, a total body count somewhere in the vicinity of 750,000 dead. Add that to Kyushu, and you have about 1.5 million deaths, both Japanese and American. Of course, it's all guesstimation, but that's about as accurate as we can imagine. Combine that with continued fighting in Indochina, China, and Korea, and you have even more dead.
The invasion of Japan would have been the bloodiest battle in the Pacific war and would have been disastrous for everyone involved. This brings us to their second point.
B) It was an unnecessary show of force to the Soviets
The authors argue that we didn't want to split occupation duties with the Soviets in Japan. This was a moot point, because at Potsdam and Tehran, it was already agreed that the occupation of Japan would be under General MacArthur and the invasion force would be a US/Britain joint operation. The Soviets weren't going to invade Japan. They declared war on the Japanese, but got low-lying fruit - areas that weren't heavily defended. Stalin didn't want to add to the 10 million Soviet deaths in an unnecessary Asian war. It's a red herring.
Ultimately the atomic bombs pushed the Emperor to cede because of the awesome destructive power caused by just one airplane. He saw how many B-29s flew over Tokyo, and he extrapolated what could have happened. Even then, his cabinet tried to overthrow him to continue the war. In the end, troops loyal to the Emperor prevailed, but it shows how ridiculous their arguments really are. Let's stop guessing a decision that saved that many lives.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Paging the ACLU

I'm back from my latest trip for a while and hopefully I'll be able to write more regularly now that that's taken care of. While I was gone, however, all sorts of things hit the fan. My sister-in-law's parents were put in jail, essentially for adopting the child of a drug addict. They housed her for a time and through talking with the mother and whatnot, they (and she) decided that the baby would be adopted by them. They have had it for around 6 months now, essentially since it was a newborn, they have documents that show the adoption proceeding and retained the counsel of a (almost certainly) cheap adoption lawyer. The lady apparently is mentally challenged, and decided that she wanted the baby back. The local police advised her after several false calls from the lady and harrasment threats that due to her current state and the unsavory characters (read: druggies/drug dealers) that she was hanging around with that it would be best for her to leave her house and lay low for a while. She went to her daughter's house (not the daughter who married my brother, another one) in Minnesota and after she left the South Beloit PD issued a warrant for the arrest of her husband and her. They've both had bail hearings, and the mother's extradition hearing is today. I don't know about the father, but the mother wasn't given legal counsel during her bail hearing and she isn't being given counsel today either, a direct violation of Gideon v. Wainwright; which essentially says that you have a right to counsel according to the 6th and 14th amendments, even if you are indigent and if it's a non-capital crime. The media's been pretty harsh on them, mainly because they're getting the DA office's side, as the family doesn't have an attorney. (Here's some stories from the Rockford Register Star here and here.) Any links, help, or otherwise would be great!