September 28, 2004

The Cult of Che

Paul Berman reviews The Motorcycle Diaries:

The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster. Many of the early leaders of the Cuban Revolution favored a democratic or democratic-socialist direction for the new Cuba. But Che was a mainstay of the hardline pro-Soviet faction, and his faction won. Che presided over the Cuban Revolution's first firing squads. He founded Cuba's "labor camp" system - the system that was eventually employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, and AIDS victims. To get himself killed, and to get a lot of other people killed, was central to Che's imagination. In the famous essay in which he issued his ringing call for "two, three, many Vietnams," he also spoke about martyrdom and managed to compose a number of chilling phrases: "Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become "- and so on. He was killed in Bolivia in 1967, leading a guerrilla movement that had failed to enlist a single Bolivian peasant. And yet he succeeded in inspiring tens of thousands of middle class Latin-Americans to exit the universities and organize guerrilla insurgencies of their own. And these insurgencies likewise accomplished nothing, except to bring about the death of hundreds of thousands, and to set back the cause of Latin-American democracy - a tragedy on the hugest scale.

The present-day cult of Che - the T-shirts, the bars, the posters - has succeeded in obscuring this dreadful reality. And Walter Salles' movie The Motorcycle Diaries will now take its place at the heart of this cult. It has already received a standing ovation at Robert Redford's Sundance film festival (Redford is the executive producer of The Motorcycle Diaries) and glowing admiration in the press. Che was an enemy of freedom, and yet he has been erected into a symbol of freedom. He helped establish an unjust social system in Cuba and has been erected into a symbol of social justice. He stood for the ancient rigidities of Latin-American thought, in a Marxist-Leninist version, and he has been celebrated as a free-thinker and a rebel. And thus it is in Salles' Motorcycle Diaries.

September 25, 2004

September 19, 2004

Is Kerry moving left?

Robert Novak on Kerry's apparent move to the left:

To the astonishment and dismay of Democratic politicians, John Kerry over the last weekend appeared to have forgotten his opponent for president. He did not seem to realize that he was running against George W. Bush, not Howard Dean. That was an understandable conclusion to be drawn from the Democratic nominee's course over four days.

Last Friday, Sen. Kerry abruptly returned to the safely buried gun control issue by decrying President Bush for permitting the assault weapons ban to end. On Saturday, he addressed the Congressional Black Caucus with a liberal harangue. On Sunday, Kerry rested. On Monday, Kerry was back boosting gun control, scolding Bush for letting the assault weapons ban expire at midnight.

Only two explanations are possible, and neither is reassuring to worried Democrats. Kerry could be making a conscious, though counterproductive, decision to reassure his liberal base. Or, he could be trapped by the calendar of events -- talking gun control because a deadline had been reached and talking civil rights because the Black Caucus invited him. Democratic strategists are particularly concerned by the latter explanation, suggesting a mindless campaign.

September 13, 2004

A Curious Case for Interventionism

Tom Palmer demolishes Max Borders' case for military interventionism and a "libertarian" hawkish foreign policy:

Borders does not deal with the core classical liberal position that there is a general presumption against waging war. There is a very large and impressive tradition governing the waging of war ("just war theory") and one of the important pillars on which it rests is that unless a war meets various criteria, it is unjustified. The burden of proof is always on the person justifying a war. War is not a good thing in and of itself. It may be a necessary evil, but it requires justification. Borders doesn’t address whether that burden was discharged in the Iraq war. I and others do not think that it was. Where is the argument that it was justified? Purple prose about an unfleshed-out theory that "rests neither on the foundational axioms associated with traditional moral theories, nor on the nihilism and disorderly assertions of the so-called Postmoderns" does not do the job. Arguments and evidence about threats to the U.S., evidence of WMD, evidence of collusion with Al Qaeda in the 9-11 attacks, and so forth are the stuff of such a justification, not irrelevant claims about Rawlsian constructivism and natural rights.

September 12, 2004

Bundesbank attacks Brussels' euro reform plans

The Bundesbank speaks out against the possible weakening of the stability pact:

Commission proposals to reform the rules underpinning the euro today received heavy criticism from Germany's Central Bank, the Bundesbank.

"The Bundesbank is of the opinion that the proposed changes will not strengthen but weaken the stability pact", said the Bank, referring to the euro rules.

The Bank expressed its concern that budgetary discipline would be undermined.

"[The plans] will reduce the incentive for euro zone countries to pursue solid budget policies and, at the same time, send a wrong signal to those countries that have not yet adopted the single currency", continued the statement.

And the Bundesbank added that the long-awaited proposals - unveiled last Friday (3 September) - would "make the rules more complicated and complex, thereby impairing its ability to be implemented".

September 07, 2004

Bush's advantage

Robert Novak on John Kerry's campaign performance:

President Bush's advisers cannot believe their good fortune of how badly John Kerry and his campaign have performed the past month. What's more, that assessment is shared by many Democrats outside the Kerry campaign.

The Republican National Convention here did everything intended, climaxed by President Bush's competent though overly long acceptance speech. But Bush's real advantage has been Kerry. At the Labor Day traditional campaign start, the Democratic candidate still seems undefined. In his latest about-face, he has gone into an attack mode, however blunted.

On the Republican convention's last day, word spread about Kerry's newest tactic: going to Springfield, Ohio, for a midnight rally targeting both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for missing combat in Vietnam. That puzzled the president's strategists, who figured Kerry would want to close the door on investigation of his own combat record. He instead delivered a glancing blow at Cheney's student draft deferments 40 years ago and then, in a meandering stump speech, drifted from health care to Iraq and back to health care. His late-night audience, in the picturesque Ohio town square, seemed anesthetized.

September 04, 2004

Democrats for Bush

Thomas Sowell on Kerry's strategy:

Some media pundits say that Senator Kerry's poor showing in the polls is due to his having followed the wrong political strategy in this campaign. They say he put too much emphasis on his Vietnam war record.

But what else did he have to put emphasis on?

Can you run for office during a war on terrorism by citing a voting record that includes being anti-military for decades? Can you even rely on a Senate record in favor of welfare state spending, at a time when handing out goodies takes a back seat to national security?

What was left for Senator Kerry, except trying to resurrect Vietnam, with his own spin on it, and making big promises for the future? Moreover, with the media on his side -- 12 to 1 inside the Beltway -- he had little to fear from that quarter.

How could Kerry know that the Swiftboat men who served with him in Vietnam would suddenly emerge to challenge his version of what happened there? Or that two prominent members of his own party would become so disgusted with him that they would throw their support to Bush?