The Times has two pieces on genetic behavioural/intellectual differences between men and women; both well written, and both referring to Lawrence Summer's recent remarks.
Thomas Friedman writes about Iraq, elections, and the global 'war on terror'. He makes the point that however satisfying it may be to say "I told you so" if the elections aren't a success, the consequences of failed elections will not be good. In the event that the insurgents keep people away from the polls (which Friedman thinks unlikely), the world needs a Plan B. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have one.
This war also can't be won with troops - only with turnout. This is a war between Iraqi voters and insurgents - ballots versus bullets. And the people who understand that best are the fascist insurgents. That is why they are not focusing their attacks on U.S. troops, but on Iraqi election workers, candidates, local officials and police. The insurgents have one credo: "Iraqis must not vote - there must be no authentic expression of the people's will for a modern, decent Iraq. Because, if there is, the world will see that this is not a war between Muslims and infidel occupiers, but between Muslims with bad ideas and Muslims with progressive ideas."Senator John McCain has these predictions for the turnout: Kurds - 80%, Shiites - 60%, Sunnis - 5%. Will that be sufficient? I hope so, but I think not, unless the newly formed government is extremely magnanimous to the Sunnis.
This war also can't be won with troops - only with turnout. This is a war between Iraqi voters and insurgents - ballots versus bullets. And the people who understand that best are the fascist insurgents. That is why they are not focusing their attacks on U.S. troops, but on Iraqi election workers, candidates, local officials and police. The insurgents have one credo: "Iraqis must not vote - there must be no authentic expression of the people's will for a modern, decent Iraq. Because, if there is, the world will see that this is not a war between Muslims and infidel occupiers, but between Muslims with bad ideas and Muslims with progressive ideas."
I spent Friday morning interviewing two 18-year-old French Muslim girls in the Paris immigrant district of St.-Ouen. (It is about a mile from the school where in March 2003 a French Muslim girl, who had refused the veil and rebuffed the advances of a Muslim boy, was thrown into a garbage can by three Muslim teenagers, who then tossed lighted cigarette butts into the can and closed the lid.)
Both girls I interviewed wore veils and one also wore a full Afghan-like head-to-toe covering; one was of Egyptian parents, the other of Tunisian parents, but both were born and raised in France. What did I learn from them? That they got all their news from Al Jazeera TV, because they did not believe French TV, that the person they admired most in the world was Osama bin Laden, because he was defending Islam, that suicide "martyrdom" was justified because there was no greater glory than dying in defense of Islam, that they saw themselves as Muslims first and French citizens last, and that all their friends felt pretty much the same.
We were not in Kabul. We were standing outside their French public high school - a short ride from the Eiffel Tower.
While I'm on the subject, I'm currently reading Tom Clancy's Battle Ready, written with (Marine) General Anthony Zinni. Gen Zinni commanded CENTCOM from 1997 to 2000 (during which time he directed strikes against Iraq and Al Qaeda) and later served as Colin Powell's envoy to the Middle East until he resigned in 2003 over disagreements about the probable aftermath of the Iraq War. I've only just begun, but here's an interesting snippet from the first 20 pages.
Gen. Zinni describes how, as CENTCOM Commander-in-Chief, he realised that his plans for defeating Saddam's military did not address the problems of reconstruction. He organised a "war-game" called 'Desert Crossing' that presented several post-Saddam Iraq scenarios and gave experts from several branches of government a feel for the extent of the problems they would face. Unfortunately, no government agency was willing to do anything about it; none of them had a charter to develop a plan for rebuilding Iraq. The CENTCOM planning staff began to work on it, but after Zinni left, nothing came of it. He later testified on the subject before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after it became clear that State and Defense Department officials had neglected such planning.
Also at the Times, the public editor discusses the way numbers are used and abused by the media. This is something I've been meaning to blog about; more coming soon.
Sadly, today's Post Opinion page doesn't seem as good as usual. They're carrying a story on Viktor Yushchenko's inauguration (as President of Ukraine) which reads more like a regular article than an editorial. There is, though, one remarkable column: Samuel Pisar's Will We 'Never Forget'? A survivor of Majdanek and Auschwitz, he writes of his experiences, the cruelty and heroism he witnessed. He writes, too, of the lessons the Holocaust can teach us.
We the survivors are now disappearing one by one. Soon history will speak of Auschwitz at best with the impersonal voice of researchers and novelists, at worst with the malevolence of demagogues and falsifiers. This week the last of us, with a multitude of heads of state and other dignitaries, are gathering at that cursed site to remind the world that past can be prologue, that the mountains of human ashes dispersed there are a warning to humanity of what may still lie ahead.If you read nothing else today, read his whole column.
The genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda and the recent massacres of innocents in the United States, Spain, Israel, Indonesia and so many other countries have demonstrated our inability to learn from the blood-soaked past. Auschwitz, the symbol of absolute evil, is not only about that past, it is about the present and the future of our newly enflamed world, where a coupling of murderous ideologues and means of mass destruction can trigger new catastrophes.
In the autumn of their lives, the survivors of Auschwitz feel a visceral need to transmit what we have endured, to warn younger generations that today's intolerance, fanaticism and hatred can destroy their world as they once destroyed ours, that powerful alert systems must be built not only against the fury of nature -- a tsunami or storm or eruption -- but above all against the folly of man. Because we know from bitter experience that the human animal is capable of the worst, as well as the best -- of madness as of genius -- and that the unthinkable remains possible.