Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reading the Paper

NY Times is full of good stuff today.

Francis Wilkinson has a blog post on McCain and his religious views. Did you know he's a member of a Southern Baptist church in Phoenix?
There's much talk in the article about McCain's lack of something called a "faith walk," and how that draws the ire of conservative "evangelicals" like James Dobson, who believe that a President should be an outspoken evangelical. McCain made remarks about his being a POW in Vietnam in a sermon that drew criticism from an anonymous evangelical friend of the author:

"I think it was important, a little bit for the stability factor, that it wasn’t God who was going to perform a miracle, end the war and bring us home. It was men. It was Caesar. I think the majority of those guys felt the way I did but we just had some, just as people turn to faith healing and that kind of stuff, we had some of that. A lot of times I would pray for strength and I think sometimes I got it. Pray for patience to get through the next minute when things were bad. I just don’t think it’s fair to expect too much out of what is basically not the Lord’s business."

Apparently McCain "segments" his life and the role of Christ too much for evangelicals. Dobson sounds like he'll not vote for President either way, he rejects McCain and said yesterday that Obama has a "fruitcake" interpretation of the Bible in response to a speech Obama made, that I personally think was fairly intelligent.

Roger Cohen writes an op-ed from Istanbul in which he encourages Obama to visit a mosque. Obama has shied away from Muslims because much of middle-class America thinks he is one thanks to misinformation campaigns by H. Clinton and even some Republican groups.

At Obama’s old school in Jakarta earlier this year, an establishment scurrilously described as a madrassa” in all the innuendo, a gentle principal showed me the large mosque and small Christian prayer room. He then invoked the words emblazoned on the coat of arms of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country: “Unity in diversity.”

That’s what I saw among the kids at the school, 85 percent of whom are Muslim, and the rest Christian. That’s also what America’s supposed to be about, not religious slurring and stereotyping.

Yet, because he’s named Barack Hussein Obama, and because his Kenyan grandfather was a Muslim, and because his commitment to Israel has been questioned, and because the U.S. Rorschach test is Muslim-menace mired, he’s had to tread carefully.

Americans are fairly ignorant on Islam and its practice (or more often non-practice) in much of the East. There's an interesting article today about persecuted Iraqi Christians who have had to pay a "jizya" tax to exist in their Muslim communities, the jizya turned into an extortion racket and pretty soon extremists start kidnapping priests for ransom.

Nicolas Kristof, the Times' excellent foreign correspondent, writes about Iraqi refugees in Jordan, and how they're hated and a drag on the local economy. They're not being schooled, there are no jobs, the families just sit there and are bitter.

"We broke Iraq, and we have a moral responsibility to those whose lives have been shattered by our actions. Helping them is also in our national interest, for we’ll regret our myopia if we allow young Iraqi refugees to grow up uneducated and unemployable, festering in their societies...

Iraqi refugees are hard to count but may now amount to 8 percent of Jordan’s population of six million. The average Jordanian family, which opposed the war in the first place, is now bearing a cost that may be as much as $1,000 per year for providing for the refugees.

In contrast, last year the United States took in only 1,608 Iraqis. European countries have done better, but they believe that America created the refugee crisis and should take the lead in resolving it...

If we let the Iraqi refugee crisis drag on — and especially if we allow young refugees to miss an education so that they will never have a future — then we are sentencing ourselves to endure their wrath for decades to come. Educating Iraqis may not be as glamorous as bombing them, but it will do far more good.

Have you seen the movie Charlie Wilson's War? I watched it last week. Remember at the end when Wilson is frustrated and denied $1 million to rebuild a school in Afghanistan after previously getting Congress to pay over $1 billion to support the Mujahideen's war against the Soviets? That's what eventually let the Taliban take root after a lack of civil authority and funds led to a civil war. We should heed that warning with how we deal with Iraq and its refugees.
I saw an Iraqi general in Mosul yesterday talking about how the problem in Iraq's hot spots isn't military anymore, it's economic. Young people without jobs quickly become angry and disaffected. The NY Times has some video interview questions with Iraqi teens.

So, yes, our government is in a bad long-term fiscal situation. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are already costing us over $1.6 trillion. But, we shouldn't start wars to liberate countries without thinking of what the consequences will be down the road. Hubris costs money.

Conservative David Brooks writes that about the only thing Bush may have gotten right in Iraq is the Surge.

Every personal trait that led Bush to make a hash of the first years of the war led him to make a successful decision when it came to this crucial call...the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today. Life is complicated. The reason we have democracy is that no one side is right all the time. The only people who are dangerous are those who can’t admit, even to themselves, that obvious fact.

How to end this post? Well, Paul Krugman, a flaming liberal Democrat, writes about how speculators are not the cause of the high price of oil. Obama wants to go after the speculators anyway. There are so many discouraging economic articles out there critical of both McCain and Obama today that I feel like I have to choose the lesser of two evils.

I guess I'll write a post on that later.

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