Orbiting my own planet

DR takes exception: I don’t mean to be unkind. But has anyone ever told you how spooky and weird you look? What the hell is with that haircut? I’ll bet your parents are heartbroken that you would go on a national website looking like a nincompoop. You look like a cross between a white-supremest skin head and one of those Raelians that was in the news last year. Then combine that with an obviously imaginary name like “Vox” – for god’s sakes! Really – What kind of an image is this for a supposed “Christian” news commentator? I would have a hard time taking anything you write seriously. You look like you would be a handsome man without that fucked up haircut.

It’s so hard to type through the tears. These sort of emails always greatly amuse me. Do I write or look as if I give an airborne rodent’s posterior about the general public’s attitude about my name or my appearance? I’m not saying my indifference is total, but it’s really very close. In this sphere, it is ideas that matter to me. If someone objects to Austrian theory because I happen to shave the sides of my head, I don’t even know where or how to begin talking to them.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that I met Space Bunny precisely because of this, and I quote, “fucked up haircut”. Lessons in style 101: the hot blonde chick is always right.

Vox in Vegas

In case anyone is up late tonight, I’ll be appearing on a radio show called AMERICA AT NIGHT with ERNIE BROWN at 11 PM Pacific time to discuss today’s column. One myth I’d particularly like to debunk is the notion that the global jihad is somehow opposed to democracy. It’s a ludicrous notion. The United States is actually the party actively opposed to democracy, curently in Iraq as well as previously in Algeria.

If you want to listen, it appears there is a streaming broadcast on Newstalk 1530 KFBK. Thanks, DaVinci, for finding that out.

Idiot tourist tragedy

From the Star Tribune: John Petters, 21, of Wayzata was stabbed to death Saturday in Florence after he and the woman he was with followed another woman through a gate and into the park of her villa as she returned home from a nightclub, a Florence prosecutor said…. The 27-year-old woman whom Petters and his friend followed through the gate told them they should not be there. When they didn’t leave, she called her father, who tried to make them leave before pulling out a knife and stabbing Petters around 4:30 a.m., Caleca said. Petters and his friend “didn’t understand Italian,” and the alleged attacker and his daughter spoke Italian during the confrontation because they didn’t realize the intruders were Americans, he said.

What a stupid waste. It reminds me of when a Japanese kid was blown away trying to go to a Halloween party at the wrong house. I’ve lived overseas enough to be well-practiced in spotting idiot tourists, or as I’ve heard them called, the white-shoes, but this was just so unnecessary. Obviously, most idiot tourism isn’t fatal, but here’s a few basic pointers to make one’s European trip a little more pleasant for everyone – not that anyone is planning one after last Thursday’s bombings.

1. Bring at least $50 of money for each country you’re planning on traveling through. If your expat friends wanted to run a bank, they’d have started one. And no, you can’t always find an ATM or a bank to exchange traveller’s checks.

2. Don’t wear tennis shoes. There are plenty of rubber-soled dark shoes out there. Buy a pair. And bag the jeans too. Women, wear skirts; European women tend to actually dress like women, not quasi-males. This year’s color: frosty pink.

3. It takes about half a second to cut through a belly-pouch. Why not just stamp “I’m a tourist, rob me” on your forehead instead?

4. Don’t wander around a strange city at 4 in the morning. Would you wander around Detroit then? Do you know where Norway’s Detroit is? Neither do I, but I’m sure they’ve got one.

5. Learn how to say: “Hello”, “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry, I don’t speak X.” It’s the least you can do. It could even save your life.

6. Everyone does not, in fact, speak English.

7. Talking louder and slower does not actually help someone who doesn’t speak English understand it. CAPIREBBE PIU MEGLIO SE PARLO MOLTO LENTO? I didn’t think so.

Don’t bother with allies

Jonah Goldberg wonders what allies are good for: Recall Ramesh’s — and others’ — critique of Krauthammer’s AEI speech? The upshot was that Krauthammer doesn’t care enough about allies. I think the criticism was valid, but the Spanish election has me re-thinking the value of allies like Spain. I salute the courage of the Aznar Government, the Spanish troops in Iraq and no doubt countless individual Spaniards who see the war on terror for what it is. But at the end of the day it’s clear that the Spanish people were never with us. Public opinion was always against Aznar — which makes him all the more courageous — and this one attack was all it took for public opinion to have its way.

So, the question is, what good was it to have Spain as an ally at all? Yes, there was some political cover, but clearly not very much in the eyes of the “world community.” Spain’s membership in the Coalition didn’t sway any Americans to support the war who otherwise wouldn’t have. And, Spain didn’t alleviate a very significant share of the military burden. Meanwhile, if terrorists learn the lesson that blowing up a few trains will cause nations like Spain to drop out of the Coalition, that helps nobody.

In this age of peaceless Pax Americana, allies are worse than useless. They are simply illusion, political cover for American politicians who do not wish to be given the cold-shoulder at Davos and the UN. This does not mean that the very real contributions of allied troops from countries like Spain, Italy, Britain, Australia and other places are not valued, only that in a strategic sense, the position of America, upon whom the jihad has been repeatedly declared for more than two decades, is weakened by a case that is dependent in any way upon foreign approval.

The Bush administration will have to learn that the Wilsonian nation-building it is attempting in Iraq is a fool’s game and a distraction from the real war, the war that the administration is still attempting to deny, or at the very least, downplay. This is not a war of land and occupation; as usual, in the early stages the generals continue to try to fight the last war.

If something needs doing, it needs to be done. If we’ve got help, great. If not, so be it.

That is the truth of the matter.

It won’t work

It looks like the Spanish people are hoping that booting out the pro-American government will somehow bring them peace. But it won’t. The only thing that will end the war declared on them is the surrender of their secular government and establishment of a new, profoundly non-secular government. I don’t see them going for that.

It’s clear now that appeasement will be the first European response. When it doesn’t work, expect them to turn surprisingly savage, appallingly so by American standards.

It looks like Italy is next

From Debka: According to data gathered by our experts, from December 2002, three months before the US invasion of Iraq, al Qaeda began issuing a stream of fatwas designating its main operating theatres in Europe. Spain was on the list, but not the first.

1. Turkey was first. Islamic fundamentalists were constrained to recover the honor and glory of the Ottoman caliphates which were trampled by Christian forces in 1917 in the last days of World War I.

2. Spain followed. There, al Qaeda set Muslims the goal of recovering their lost kingdom in Andalusia.

3. Italy and its capital were third. Muslim fundamentalists view Rome as a world center of heresy because of the Vatican and the Pope.

4. Vienna came next because the advancing Muslim armies were defeated there in 1683 before they could engulf the heart of Europe.

This would probably be a bad time to visit Sicily, which like Spain was once Muslim territory. Note that the attacks in Turkey – there was another bombing attempt Sunday in Istanbul – demonstrate that the jihad does not see Christian crusaders as its sole enemy, but also targets secular non-Muslims, especially those who have supplanted what was formerly Islamic land governed by Islamic law. I expect that France and Britain will be on the extended list, as it was those countries that conquered the Arabia and divided it according to their desires in the early 20th century.

Where do the United States and Britain stand on al Qaeda’s time table? Its religious edicts dictate the “liberation” (by terrorism) of lands once under Muslim rule. Turkey and Spain were therefore placed ahead of London, Paris and Berlin. Israel is doubly anathemized as a Jewish state established in a country once governed by Muslims. Rome ought to come next, although the fatwas allow some flexibility to meet changing circumstances and enable al Qaeda to strike where least expected.

Rome was never Muslim territory, although there is no question that it is the heart and soul of Italy. That’s where the maximum effect would be felt, but an attack there also might violate the liberation theme. Unfortunately, we’ll probably learn how the jihad’s thought processes are working soon enough.