May 17, 2002



"It is an obscene comparison ... but you know there was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tyres around people's necks if they dissented," said Mr Rather. "And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism put around your neck."

The sentiment itself is just run-of-the-mill deranged. It's the way Rather says it ("in some ways," "a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism") that takes it from garden variety insane babbling, to the level of classic Kenneth. DailyPundit

Posted by BruceR at 01:17 PM



Jon Last made a case for the Star Wars Empire yesterday, in which he defends the destruction of Alderaan in the first Star Wars movie:

If anything, since Leia is a high- ranking member of the rebellion and the princess of Alderaan, it would be reasonable to suspect that Alderaan is a front for Rebel activity or at least home to many more spies and insurgents like Leia.

Whatever the case, the important thing to recognize is that the Empire is not committing random acts of terror. It is engaged in a fight for the survival of its regime against a violent group of rebels who are committed to its destruction.

I can't believe that Last or the Weekly Standard considers that a valid justification for genocide, regardless of what proportion of the population of Alderaan was opposed to the Empire. There is no difference, morally, between the movie destruction of Alderaan and, say, Oradour sur Glane. By that point (the beginning of Episode IV) Darth and friends were, by any reasonable standard, truly evil.

The conundrum one hopes the next movie raises provocatively is when, exactly, do they cross over into evil? Is it when they start to resist separatism within the Old Republic? Dictators (Napoleon, Hitler, Palpatine) arise out of that kind of political chaos... but Palpatine is clearly dedicated to the overthrow of the current political order for his own personal benefit from the very first. Vader's conversion has yet to be outlined. But are the soldiers of the Empire who fight for him and Palpatine evil? Not necessarily any more than Wehrmacht soldiers were: yet that doesn't mean it was wrong for the Rebels to oppose them, surely. It's not contradictory to have a non-evil person ending up serving an evil cause. Shakespeare still catches the conundrum around the roots of evil best: was Caesar evil? Brutus? Antony? Or all and none together? Their Republic fell into Empire, too. Who among them should be blamed?

I think Last as an American patriot and a conservative, is justifiably offended that in the Star Wars universe, once again evil is seen as arising from the right of the political spectrum. Is it evil to oppose the UN, he asks? To ask for effective government? To have the right to separate and go your own way when that government fails you? It kind of goes against the American founding myths if that's true... one wonders at Last's response to the question, "if it hadn't been for the slavery, would the South have had the right to go?" Coming from a country settled by separatist Loyalists, and dogged by its own separatist threats through the decades, my answer might be somewhat different from his, though.

Or does Last contradict the myths even more when he speaks up for benevolent dictators? When he says "a dictatorship you can do business with," like Pinochet's, is worth preserving? Then, one asks, why wasn't King George III? You could do business with him, surely. And if Britain wasn't to be resisted in 1776, then, well, what right does America have to exist at all? Adams and Jefferson had far less to complain about with regard to their circumstances than Leia and Skywalker do...

("The most compelling evidence that the empire isn't evil" Last has is that Darth Vader wants to avoid killing his own son. Yeah, evil people never feel parental obligations, didn't you know that?)

But most disturbing of all is the thread running through Last's piece that political instability in and of itself is evil: "Their [the Rebels'] victory over the Empire doesn't liberate the galaxy- -it turns the galaxy into Somalia writ large: dominated by local warlords who are answerable to no one." (Note he uses Somalia as his example... not post-Taliban Afghanistan, of which much the same could be said.) Better to have the emperor rule "by fear," he posits.

This is, I have stated before, the biggest problem with western foreign policy post-Cold War... the obsession with regional and global stability, a world "you can do business with", over and above whatever desires the populations might have to be democratic, or free, or immune from Last's chosen weapon, fear. It keeps the U.S. from doing something about Saudi Arabia... it has so far kept it from doing anything about Iraq... it hinders any moral policy with regard to Taiwan... the list goes on.

"I'll take the Empire," Last writes. The problem is, that's exactly what America keeps doing... and American ideals, and the world, suffer as a result.

UPDATE: Favourable comment from A Long View.

Posted by BruceR at 12:06 PM

SEEMS FAIR The United States


The United States and Europe have been calling [on Arafat] for reforms. The United States has called on the Palestinians to adopt a constitutional democracy and counter corruption. Israel has demanded reforms as a condition for resuming peace talks. --Globe and Mail, today

In other news, Ariel Sharon called on the Palestinians today to replace themselves with another people, as a condition of resuming negotiations. "Manitobans would do nicely," he suggested, helpfully.

Posted by BruceR at 09:41 AM