Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute

Kohelet was right; there's nothing new under the sun. Remember the Barbary pirates? From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli (the second came first but don't tell that to a Marine)? Muslim-controlled piratical states in North Africa preyed on American and British shipping, seizing ships and their crews and holding them for ransom. Their entire economies were built around piracy; they had no other parnasa [means of support]. Red-blooded Americans thundered, "Millions for defense; not a cent for tribute!" President Jefferson dispatched the fledgling U.S. Navy and, along with the much stronger British Navy, taught the pirates and their governments a lesson they did not soon forget. Civilization had no more trouble from Barbary pirates - until now. The venue changed just a little; instead of North Africa the pirates operate from Somalia, that failed state on the Horn of Africa astride the world's major shipping lanes. The pirates are still Muslim, the economy of the towns from which they operate is completely dependent on piracy, and there are indications that some of the ransom money finds its way to Islamic fascists. Nobody knows how much was paid out in ransom by shipping companies, but insurance premiums are going through the roof, and shippers are sending their ships on a long and costly detour around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the Somali pirates. The pirates have become so brazen as to threaten cruise ships, and cruise companies are avoiding the area. The response of the civilized world? Not what it was in Jefferson's time! Western governments regard it as a private matter between shipping companies and pirates, and are suggesting that shippers hire private security to deal with the pirates.

Protecting the West's strategic shipping lanes (through which most of our oil flows) is not a job for mercenaries such as Blackwater. This is just the latest front in the broader war against Islamic fascism. An attack on American shipping, or even on foreign ships with cargoes bound for America, is an attack on America and must be treated as such. We need to dispatch our Navy to neutralize the pirates by any means necessary. And we and the European Union need to send an expeditonary force to occupy enough of Somalia so that the pirates will not be able to use it as a base. People are saying that we don't know what to do with pirates that we capture. If I am not mistaken, international law has long provided that any country may capture, try and execute pirates. If crewmen can cut the ropes that pirates use to board ships and send the pirates to the sharks, fine (see Ex. 22:1). Otherwise, capture them, bring them ashore and speedily try them. If found guilty, hang them from the yardarm of the ship they attempted to seize, with the TV cameras rolling for maximum deterrence. People will say that we lack the wherewithal; our military is already stretched thin between Iraq and Afghanistan. But we've fought wars on multiple fronts before; World War II comes to mind. And our present predicament presents us with an opportunity to reverse the economic downturn. We have plenty of unused industrial capacity in the "rust belt," from which American manufacturing jobs were long since exported to Red China. Renovate the factories and retool them . Put Americans to work manufacturing tanks, planes, ships, aircraft carriers, everything a superpower needs to project power wherever and whenever necessary. This will put millions of Americans to work and modernize our deterrent. And while we're building new aircraft carriers, why not sell one of the old ones to Israel and train the Israelis to take off and land from it? Israeli flyboys are sure to be quick studies, and America could use a strong, reliable ally in that dangerous part of the world.

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Monday, December 15, 2008


My readers know that I have deep misgivings about the results of the Presidential election. But so far, the auguries appear favorable. President-elect Obama appears to be surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues, much to the chagrin of his most ardent supporters on the left. A man who intends to surrender in Iraq would not be keeping George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense, and a man who hates Jews would not hire one (a moderately Orthodox one at that) as his White House chief of staff.
I do wonder about his choice for Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton is a smart woman, and she will not be the first female Secretary of State, not that I was very enthused with Madeleine Albright or Condoleeza Rice. Teddy Roosevelt said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." If the lady at Foggy Bottom speaks softly and the man in the Pentagon carries a big stick, we will not be doing badly - if the lady can convince the bad guys that the man intends to use the big stick if he has to. I haven't forgotten Ms. Clinton's kissing up to Mrs. Yassir Arafat, literally. That was not stupid; it was evil. And it underscores the problem I have with Mr. Obama. Unlike great Presidents like Lincoln and Kennedy, and even not-so-great ones like George W. Bush, Obama is fuzzy about the difference between right and wrong. More about that in future posts. Right now I predict that we will have to watch the new President closely, and not be bashful about speaking out when he gets good and evil mixed up.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Pearl Harbor

Yesterday, December 7, was the day that will live in infamy, the 67th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that launched America into World War II, the struggle against Hitler not being sufficient reason to go to war. Back in high school in the '60s, the principal, for reasons unknown to me, was nicknamed "Jap," so Pearl Harbor Day was a big thing. Yesterday the New York Road Runners put on a 10-kilometer race around Central Park. I ran it in a home-made shirt commemmorating the event.

The NYRR did not observe the day in any way, nor did any of the runners I saw (to be fair, there were several thousand runners and I was near the back of the pack) wear anything to indicate anything special. When I finished, one runner complimented me on my shirt and said that too few people remember. That is true, and unfortunate. For one thing, basic hakarat ha-tov dictates that we remember the brave men, better men than we, who sacrificed themselves so that we, their children and grandchildren, can live in freedom. Can we even comtemplate what kind of world it would be if, God forbid, the other side had won? We Jews would not even be here. For another, our past has parallels to our present situation that we ignore at our peril. Pearl Harbor was a treacherous "sneak attack" launched while Japan's diplomats were still talking with our own; the stereotype of the "sneaky Jap" has a kernel of truth, if not its actual origin, in Pearl Harbor. The attack on the Habad House in Mumbai was similarly treacherous, carried out so efficiently by attackers who cased the place in advance, availing themselves of the Holtzbergs' legendary hakhnasat orhim. And Israel's Arab enemies since Oslo talk peace with one side of their mouths, even as they plot their barbarities with the other. The attack on Pearl Harbor was not hatched overnight. It was months in the planning, Japan being openly in league with Germany and there being long-standing tension between the United States and Japan over oil and other natural resources. American intelligence was sleeping, the American command structure deliberately self-blinded to the looming danger. Sounds familiar? It is always more comfortable to live in a fool's paradise than to face the stark, unpleasant truth and meet it with manly courage and fortitude. But meet it we must, and the earlier we "man up," the less the inevitable price will be.

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Monday, December 01, 2008


You that are sleeping: Wake Up!

The butchers of New York, Washington, London, Madrid, Bali, ad nauseam haven't gone to sleep. They still plot our destruction. And now they added another venue to their butcheries - Mumbai. They were not Islamic zealots looking to extirpate idol worship; India has millions of idol-worshiping Hindus but they were not targeted. These butchers, like those before, were Islamic fascists looking for Westerners. Americans, Britons and Israelis, Jews and Christians, were specifically targeted. Hostages were tortured before being killed. And we blithely go our merry way.

Mumbai was not the work of an amateur, or even a group of amateurs. It consisted of at least ten separate but coordinated and meticulously well-planned attacks. The terrorists knew their way around the hotels better than the security forces did. Plots like these are not hatched overnight. Over seven years after 9/11, and still Western intelligence had no inkling of the plot in time to stop it. What in blazes is the matter with us?

The just-concluded election campaign provided us with a perfect opportunity to hold both candidates' feet to the fire on what they intend to do about terrorism, but they did not address the issue adequately and we did not make them. So now I have this to say to the President-elect:

The barbarians are at the gates. We don't give a hoot about General Motors. If it can't make cars that Americans want to buy and turn a profit, let it go under. That's how free markets work. Ditto with Citigroup. Enough taxpayers' money down the drain. Tell us how you propose to deal with the barbarians.

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