Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Not-so-Random Thoughts on Iraq

Once upon a time two companions embarked on an adventure in an unfamiliar land.  As they made their way through the woods they came to a fork in the road and began to argue over which path to take.  Pointing to the path on the right, the first traveler said, “I think that road leads south to the desert.  We should go left.”  The second man said, “The path on the left may lead us into unknown dangers.  We should go right.”  Unable to agree, one took the path on the right while the other took the road on the left.  Eventually the one headed south does indeed come to the desert.  Believing he can cross he keeps walking but ultimately the heat and lack of water proves too much and he becomes weak and disoriented.  Knowing he will die he thinks to himself, “My friend was smart to take the other road,” and then he perished.  The second man found himself deep in the jungle.  Walking along he inadvertently stumbles into a tribe of savages who practice cannibalism.  He is taken prisoner and as he awaits his fate he thinks to himself, “My friend was smart to take the other road,” and then he is killed and eaten.

The moral to the story is this:  don’t presume that because things didn’t work out as you planned that the road not taken would have guaranteed you sunshine and roses instead.
That is the basis of my message to the frothing-at-the-mouth leftists and libertarians who are cackling with glee at the chaos in Iraq and congratulating themselves for being “right” in their predictions, as in this comment (unpublished) left at my blog:

“Looks like you Neocons were wrong about Iraq after all, eh? Ron Paul and libertarians, on the other hand, have been proven 100% correct...”

Fairly quiet while things appeared to be stable, the so-called “libertarians” now cruise the web in search of the hated “neocons” so that they can gloat.  Of course, gloating is cheap when you’ve never been in a position to make the difficult decisions and never had to own the consequences, but they aren’t above it.  Why should they be?  They have no history of their own to defend, no paths they’ve been entrusted to choose between where the future was uncertain.  Still they take comfort in the tortured logic that says the failure met on one path somehow automatically vindicates the other.  Sorry to put a damper on the fun but that simply isn’t the case.  Whatever challenges there have been with respect to Iraq there is no way of knowing what different challenges we might have faced had we followed another path and not gone to war in 2003.  That is a fact.

The Iraq war and the debate that led up to it has been the perfect case study in revisionist history, thanks to democrats who were for the war until election time came and then suddenly, seeing that things weren’t going so well, they scrambled to save themselves by declaring that they’d been lied to.  So-called libertarians like “Unknown” jumped on that bandwagon and both factions pounced on what they believed to be a golden opportunity to turn the debate on Iraq into a referendum on conservatism.  Never let a crisis go to waste.  With an either-or mentality that evoked scenes from the George Carlin skit where anyone driving faster than you is an “asshole” and anyone slower than you is an “idiot,” the leftists decreed that a vote for John Kerry or Ron Paul meant you were peace loving while a vote for Bush made you a war-mongering “neocon.”  The absurdity of such a position, a basis for humor in the Carlin skit, was lost on the Left. Given what they were trying to do I found myself wanting to defend Bush no matter what the criticism rather than allow any misstep in Iraq to be touted as evidence of some broader failure of conservatism.  Such is the unintended consequence of politicizing that which ought not be politicized. 

Any reasonable debate about Iraq needs to begin at the beginning, going back to what we knew and didn’t know in the months and years leading up to the war.  It needs to consider what circumstances constitute a real threat to the U.S. and how real threats should be dealt with.  I have offered to go that route with many leftists and so-called “libertarians” who’ve come along to cry their cries of “neocon!” but in the years I’ve blogged not a single one has been willing to engage in honest debate.  Not one.  Doing so would mean having to concede that reasonable arguments were made on both sides, for and against war, and that either path had its own risks.  Alas, that kind of measured objectivity doesn’t serve the greater goal of taking out the political competition, and so rational debate has been rejected. 

Right now we are seeing the state of the world under the stewardship of the Left which, by the way, closely resembles the libertarian view.  Oh they’ll cry that they’re dealing with what was left to them by Bush, but every president inherits the world of his predecessors and it is his task to apply the talents he claimed to have and make of it what he will.  This isn’t 2010.  Obama has had five and a half years to prove to us that the path he wanted with respect to foreign and military policy is superior to that of his political foes.  I admit that I’m biased but so far I’m not impressed, to say the least.  I would love nothing more than to have a crystal ball with which to see how the world would look if Ron Paul were president.  Call me jaded but I suspect his supporters might find that the real world has its own way of undermining what sounds really swell in theory.  Maybe “Unknown” should be thankful, because as long as the presidency remains out of reach to the libertarians no one can prove that they don’t have all the answers.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Squeezing the Balloon

Whenever I hang a picture on the wall by myself all that I require is a child-sized hammer, a nail and one squinting eye.  When my husband gets involved, however, we have to drag out levels, drills, pencils, measuring tapes, stud finders, calculators, anchors, screws and other assorted tools that I can’t even name.  When we’re finished, you could hang a Sumu wrestler on my wall and he ain’t goin’ nowhere.  Once I asked the man, “If all of this is necessary, how come the pictures I’ve hung up never fall down?” to which he replied, “Because you don’t understand the laws of physics; therefore they don’t apply to you.”

As cool as it is being exempt from the laws of physics, I’m afraid I must prove him wrong.  I understand, for instance, that if I squeeze on one end of a balloon, the other end will expand as the air is forced into it.  If I squeeze hard enough, the balloon will burst as the air must find a way to escape.  It’s a simple fact.

Human nature and society are a lot like the air in that balloon.  People react to circumstances in very predictable ways and, left to their own devices, they will find a way around the obstacles that are placed before them, even if that means bursting the balloon.  If, for instance, the gov’t tries to reign in the cost of Medicare by reducing payments to medical providers, those providers will restrict their availability to such patients and/or will pass the shortfall on to non-Medicare patients by charging them higher prices.  Artificial constraints on Medicare act like pressure on a balloon, resulting in higher fees and insurance rates for everyone and opening the door to a duplicitous form of wealth transfer.

When the housing market went bust, liberals got busy trying to figure out ways to “protect” people from the consequences of their bad choices or the bad choices made by others that led to the bust.  They went to work meddling with the ability of banks to foreclose and to do what they naturally would to protect themselves, and this led to consequences for people far removed from the original transactions.  The balloon burst and the losses that banks were forced to absorb were passed on like escaping air to investors and other consumers in the form of higher fees, tighter credit and economic contraction. 

We can look at example after example of the unintended or INTENDED consequences that occur when those on the Left start messing with the balloon, squeezing it, pumping more air into, trying to make it into something it was never intended to be, until the balloon bursts.  On the horizon we see Obamacare, the trillion-dollar student loan mess that’s looming, welfare and other major crises-in-the-making, but for now I want to talk about illegal immigration because it’s the one crisis that many Republicans seem most clueless about. 

Immigration laws exist for a reason, most people understand that, and to paraphrase an astute observation made by Dana Perino of “The Five” the other day, a country without borders isn’t really a country.  That’s a simple but powerful truth.  America’s immigration laws, albeit tainted over the years, were designed to protect this nation and to ensure its sovereignty, its economy and its culture and traditions.  At least that’s what an immigration plan ought to do, correct?  A plan that’s properly enforced results in a balloon of a certain manageable size, and if and when the pressure gets to be too much due to demand the natural and ideal outlet, assuming that the forces are in place to keep the balloon intact, is for continual re-evaluation of and potential adjustment to our immigration policies.  Do we need more short-term or long-term workers?  What kinds of skills do we need?  Is immigration growing our resources or putting a strain on them?  All of those questions could be considered and debated with the proper deliberation and study they deserve when the balloon is treated with care and the air within it controlled but of course it’s too late for that.  Predictable forces from inside this country, including the unbridled appetite for cheap labor, bountiful rewards in the form of American taxpayer-funded services arranged for by the Left (and abetted by some who claim to hail from the Right) and neglect of the border combined to create unchecked demand that far exceeded the capacity of the balloon.  Illegal immigrants, like the molecules of air that were contained inside, have escaped and spread like water from a bursting dam, and the engineers who might have taken the time to carefully re-design or reinforce that dam are running to and fro, scrambling to catch up with the water everywhere it chooses to go in a hopeless effort to prevent the floods and erosion that are sure to come.

I may be no physics genius but I know a balloon that’s being stomped on when I see one, and right now there are balloons popping left and right. 

Can you hear them?


Monday, June 2, 2014

What is a “Conservative?”

Over the past twenty years or more there’s been a growing debate over what qualifies someone as “conservative” in the context of politics and philosophy towards government.  It’s not unusual to see two people supporting opposite sides of a policy while both label themselves as “conservative,” but as we all know, if “conservative” means everything, then it means nothing. 

Here’s what I know:  conservatism goes much deeper than policy.  Policy should derive from philosophy and philosophy should derive from beliefs.  The founders of this nation, through discussion, argumentation and debate, identified a shared belief system, and as they built the framework for the country and the Constitution they challenged each other to demonstrate that their ideas for that framework were consistent with that shared belief system.  That’s what needs to happen now as we debate the meaning of conservatism.  It’s what we should continually be doing.  Thus, if I had to define what I see as the basic belief system that identifies a conservative (politically speaking), here’s what it would be:

A true conservative understands and believes in the laws of human nature.

Self-interest, self-protection and self-reliance as well as less attractive traits like selfishness, the drive to dominate others, the inclination to steal or take advantage of others, the inclination to do evil, the inclination to work/manipulate the “system” and many other traits are all part of human nature.  These are patterns of behavior that exist universally in every society.  No government can succeed that ignores these realities.

A true conservative believes in the laws of natural consequences.

When you insulate people from the consequences of their actions you remove the natural incentives for them to do the right things.  It’s really that simple.

A true conservative respects the rights of others to life, liberty and property, with reciprocation.

The mere fact of your existence does not entitle you to the fruits of my labor, and vice versa.  You respect my rights and I will respect yours. 

A true conservative believes in the absolute necessity of justice, fair laws and abiding by the rule of properly enacted law.

In the absence of that you have systemic corruption and tyranny or chaos.

A true conservative instinctively understands the necessary role society plays in the success and perpetuity of the individual.

Forming societies is part of our nature and is integral to the survival of humankind.  A just, moral and well-defended society enriches the individual; and resilient, self-reliant, moral individuals create strong societies.  It’s symbiotic.  Unlike conservatives who respect and nurture this relationship, Liberals and libertarians undermine it, either intentionally for their own gain or through ignorance and immaturity. 

A true conservative believes in personal responsibility.

If every adult took care of his own needs and those of his family there would be no justification for big government.  Perhaps this is why “progressives” encourage just the opposite.

A true conservative knows that the only means to successful self-government is through open, honest debate.

A salesman doesn’t need to lie or resort to gimmicks when he’s selling a really good product, and a consumer isn’t really making a free choice when he’s lied to or when information is withheld from him.  Beware of those who refuse to engage in honest debate.

A true conservative believes that charity begins at home.

“Charity” is not when a you tell other people how to do good or force them to give.  It’s when you do good or give yourself.

A true conservative has the conscience of a conservative.

A reluctance to lie, cheat and steal, even in the face of opponents willing to do so, separates a conservative from a wannabe. 

A true conservative believes in the sovereignty of his nation and the inalienable right to self-defense.

If and when you give these up you have forfeited your freedom.

If you believe in these basic tenets, the policies will write themselves.  Furthermore they will be largely consistent from one “conservative” to the next.  Take illegal immigration.  If you believe in the rule of law, the laws of human nature, the laws of natural consequences and state sovereignty, then the only logical position on illegal immigration is to oppose any suggestion of amnesty, as this defies the rule of law, ignores the laws of human nature, nullifies the law of natural consequences and makes a laughing stock of state sovereignty.  I grant that not every issue will be clear, but that’s where the debate comes in.  Prove to me that your position is consistent with the conservative beliefs we share and I won’t question your claim to conservatism.  If you can’t do that, all bets are off.