Saturday, September 21, 2002

Those of you new to my blog might want to check out my take on Iraq, on guns, my Message to the World, or my Yom Kippur post.

Feel free to post comments or email me.

Friday, September 20, 2002


I've noticed several references to this bouncing around the blogosphere. The NYTimes version seems to give the best background:
A bomb filled with screws and nails exploded today in the courtyard of an isolated Palestinian school here in the West Bank, near the main highway south of Hebron, half an hour before schoolchildren were to go outside for their midmorning break.

Five children inside the school were wounded by glass and debris, none seriously. But the headmaster and teachers described a scene of utter panic as pupils shrieked and scrambled under their desks under a thick cloud of dust.

Israeli bomb experts detonated a second bomb found on the school grounds. The Israeli police combed the scene for four hours, and said only that they had no immediate suspects. But Israel Radio reported that army and secret service officials privately said their working assumption was that the bombs were planted by Jews.

The Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip issued a statement condemning the placement of bombs in Palestinian schools.
In April, the Israeli police arrested six settlers, including militant settlers from Hebron, who are accused of planting bombs in Arab schools in Jerusalem.

In the first episode, on March 5, the headmaster of a school in southern Jerusalem spotted suspicious objects in the playground and herded the students away just before they exploded.

Then in April, the Israeli police intercepted two settlers in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem unhooking a trailer near a girls' school. It was found to contain a powerful bomb set to go off at 7:35 a.m., when students arrived at the school.

Essentially, some assholes tried to blow up a Palestinian school in the West Bank, some kids got hurt, police responded immediately and detonated a 2nd bomb they found. They haven't made any arrests in this case, but they have in past cases where they caught militant Jewish sttlers trying to murder Palestinian schoolkids.

First off, as I said in my post on Yom Kippur: Murder is murder. A victim is a victim. Our loss is no greater than theirs. There is no excusing the settlers trying to murder innocent schoolkids. None. There is no possible justification, no possible provocation, nothing at all that could make it excusable in any way. Killing innocent people is wrong (and kids are innocent by definition). It doesn't matter what religion they are, or whether their parents hate you, or if they stand in the way of some bullshit about reclaiming the land you think is rightfully yours. It's fucking wrong, and it needs to stop. Murdering a Palestinian civilian is no better nor any worse than murdering Adi Shiran, Danielle Shefi, Tehila Maoz, or Shiri Negari. I really hope there is a hell so that all the people who murder in the name of faith will meet one day, and be surprised. So the question mark in the title of my post isn't about the equivalency of murder victims (they're all the same in my eyes).

The question mark is about the police, and the entities they represent. The Israeli police, by all accounts, acted professionally and quickly to make sure there was no more danger, and are investigating to see if they can make arrests. Can anyone, of any persuasion, really insist that the Palestinian police would do anything but celebrate if a bomb went off at an Israeli school? Can anyone really insist that the Palestinian police would try to save Israeli lives?

Since Oslo (something I supported), one of the gaping holes in the agreement to me was that the Palestinian police were all former terrorists. I really doubted if men who had dedicated themselves to the killing of Israelis would put that aside and act to protect those same Israelis when the time came. I remember an interview on NPR with a former PLO guerrilla who was going to be a policeman in the new Palestinian Authority. They asked him if he would arrest Palestinians who killed Jews. His one word answer: No.

So the situation we are faced with is this: One police force arrests the murderers on their own side, one doesn't. I see a lot of people (many of whom I agree with on other issues) say that the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority are morally equivalent. How can that be? One side stands by while innocents are murdered, or even assists in the murders, but the other side acts to protect the innocents. Where is the equivalency? Until the Palestinian authorities act to protect Israeli lives and arrest those who murder Israelis, they're nothing but thugs with guns.

I also see some people who object to the Israelis sending troops into the West Bank and Gaza to make arrests and confiscate weapons. I ask: what wiould you have them do? If it were your relatives being murdered, if it were your kids at risk, what would you do? Would you say, I don't want my kids murdered, but those darned terrorists keep going across some line on a map, so we can't do anything? How long would you let this go on before you acted? If the Palestinian police were acting like real police and arresting murders, I wouldn't want the Israeli troops to move in. But they're not. The Palestinian police are helping the murderers and hiding them from justice. What would you have the Israelis do?

Hearts & Minds

In ripping into Eugene Volokh's criticism of Robert Wright's very well thought series on stopping terror without provoking more people into becoming terrorists, I promised to get back to the valid points Volokh has made (rather than just shredding his unfair caricature of Wright's ideas). Here we are.

Volokh makes some valuable points:
if we were to make "avoid enraging Arabs with our statements, for fear that they'll bomb us" a prominent part of American policy, what would the consequence be? First, many Arabs would see that Arab terrorism, and the threat of more to come, has succeeded very well in changing our national policy. Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated; this success will thus create an incentive to threaten more terrorism.
Once you change your policy to "appease X," X begins to see this appeasement as the new baseline against which your behavior is measured; the appeasement becomes taken for granted as X's due; anything that seems to violate this appeasement policy now becomes an extra ground for quarrel, because it's a violation of the new norm that X has come to expect.
The violent appeased come to demand more and more of the appeasers, and come to have more and more contempt for the appeasers. And to the extent that willingness to murder becomes an effective weapon in deterring us, the result will be more groups that choose to use that weapon against us.

It's true. If we made don't do anything to piss off people who act violently toward us our official policy, it would both increase the number of people who act violently toward us and increase the demands of those who did. I definitely don't think Wright was suggesting this.

Our first priority should be to punish those who strike against us and to destroy their capacity for doing so again. Not only does this protect us from future attack by those same people, it acts as a detterent to others who may consider attacking us. This should almost go without saying. That we take care not to antagonize new people while doing so won't encourage attacks in and of itself. No one's going to say I know we're going to get our asses kicked if we do this, but let's do it anyway because it'll make America be nicer to the people who might take our side if they weren't so nice. Wright didn't say that we should appease those who act violently, he simply states that
One way to squelch terrorism is to kill or arrest the people whose brains are infected with the meme.....But some forms of killing and arresting—especially the kinds that get us bad publicity—do so much to spread the meme that our enterprise suffers a net loss.
: In a war on terrorism, applying force inconspicuously makes sense more often than in regular wars.

This is far from advocating appeasement, it is simply a call for subtlety. Where in an old style war we might use an overwhelming show of force to cow enemies into submission, the same show of force in today's war might create new ones. Why use a nuke when an icepick will do?

The one place where I agree with Volokh is that we cannot be seen to be more caring about the feelings and desires of those who are violent than those who are nonviolent. We may take them into account in our secret deliberations (that is the nature of Realpolitik), but we cannot be publicly seen to reward violence. This is why the straightforward Line in the sand sort of stuff doesn't always work in international relations. There will be a dichtomy between our words and our actions. This is true, but it is not necessarily bad. It's just the way life works.

This can also be taken as a call to a kinder foreign (and domestic) policy towards those who aren't violent towards us. Making it public policy to address legitimate greivances with priority given to those who don't use violence will go a long way towards making us safer. Not only will it head off disputes that could one day turn violent, it will also serve as a deterrent to those who might consider violence. Knowing in advance that violence will put them at the back of the queue will go a long way towards making violence an unattractive alternative.

But, you ask, How can we reward nonviolence and try not to antagonize the potentially violent at the same time? The answer, my friends, is with nuance and patience, two things that Americans haven't been very good at.

First, we should stop looking at every issue with a Black Hat vs. White Hat, Good vs. Evil, Either With us Or Against Us viewpoint. Some issues are this clear cut, but not most. If we insist that anyone who disagrees with us is completely wrong and must adopt our policies or else, we'll be picking a lot of fights for no good reason at all. Sometimes people who disagree with us have a point, and it will pay if we can recognize when they do. Of course, sometimes people who disagree with us are being completely unreasonable, and we'll want to recognize that also.

How This Would Apply to Israel
Some Palestinians and people who sympathize with them want Israel to just go away. They're pissed that it was founded, they're pissed that it keeps winning wars, and they'd blow the whole place up tomorrow if they had a chance. These people, of course, we should tell to fuck off. They're not going to make Israel go away, and we're not going to treat them very well until they stop trying.
A smaller number of Palestinians and a much larger percentage of the people who sympathize with them agree with us that Israel has a right to exist, but think that the Israelis are treating the Palestinians unfairly. Some of their demands are quite reasonable (stopping settlements in the West Bank, removing the isolated settlements that encroach on heavily populated Palestinian areas). Some of their demands are unreasonable (wanting the descendants of people who left Israel in 1949 to have the same Right of Return as the people who've actually lived there).

For too long, our policy has been to lump both of these groups into the same category and treat them the same. That hasn't been a good idea. We should try to encourage the latter group (with which we have some common ground) while weakening the former (with which we don't). The best way to do this would be to bring our influence to bear in favor of the most reasonable demands of the most reasonable people.

There are a certain number of Palestinians and a much larger number of sympathizers who'd be happy if the Israelis would stop building settlements in the West Bank, abandon the most intrusive ones already built, and compensate families who lost land in 1949 and 1967. If we (both the US and Israel) had given these most reasonable of our critics what they wanted, it would've had several beneficial effects:
1) It would've stripped away a large number of supporters from the hard-liners, as those not willing to fight and die to abolish Israel altogether saw no reason to continue fighting once they got (most of) what they wanted.
2) It would've stripped the hard-liners of any shred of moral legitimacy, as it became obvious that most reasonable accomodations had already been made and that the only things left were those that were unreasonable (this would also make it harder for the militants to gain new converts in the future)
3) It would have taken from the hard-liners any real chance of victory. Once Israel had made the accomodations it could to the Palestinians and it became obvious that no further accomodations would ever be forthcoming, it would be obvious that the hard-liners had nothing else to win. All but the blindest Palestinians can see that Israel exists as a fact and will continue to exist. Few would want to join a bunch of radical fantasists with no chance of winning.

By giving the reasonable Palestinians (and there are such things) what they wanted, Israel and the United States could've isolated the unreasonable, violent ones causing all the trouble. As it is now, the hard-core psychos are hiding behind and taking help from the people with legitimate greivances. They're also gaining converts among them, as they insists that we have no intention of honoring even their most sensible requests. Refusing to even accede to the most reasonable requests (back before the fighting started again) made it easier for the hard-liners to portray Israel and America as inflexible and arrogant.

I know that Israel made peace with the Palestinians and attempted to work out a compromise. I know a lot of Palestinians still refuse to accept Israels's right to exist. But it is still incumbent upon us to do the best we can with what we're given, and we didn't always do that. The continued settlement of the West Bank, the intransigence of the most radical of the settlers, and the deliberate provocations of people like Sharon made things worse. They made it look as if we were operating in bad faith and had no intention of allowing the Palestinians to have a state of their own. This brought more and more people over to the side of the radical nutcases, and it has hurt us all. I, for one, really, really miss Rabin. He seemed to have the ability to make way with the moderates among the Palestinians without appearing to cower before the radicals, and that's the secret.

The strategy I'm outlining, by the way, is essentially how the United States defused what looked like a quite dangerous revolutionary movement in the '60s and '70s. We accomodated the reasonable things that many of their sympathizers wanted (getting out of Vietnam, giving blacks the respect and equal treatment they deserved), thus stripping the militant radicals of the mass of their supporters.

Most blacks didn't want violent revolution, they wanted equal treatment. Once they got it, the violent revolutionary groups like the Black Panthers retreated back to the fringe. Most antiwar protesters didn't want to overthrow the American government, they just wanted to stop fighting an unjust war. Once we pulled out, groups like the SDS faded away, and Jane Fonda started down the slippery slope to exercise videos and infomercials. The few radicals left found themselves increasingly marginalized and with no base of support. Many, unable to accept that our society had done the right thing and proved its essential goodness, became disillusioned with the Left and drifted over to the hard Right, where there were still things to be pissed off about.

The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 and the withdrawal from Vietnam ended up ushering in an era of relative tranquility in American life (though the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 didn't make it appear so at the time). They gave a huge disaffected chunk of America new reason to buy back into The Dream, took support away from the few radicals out there, and gave us reason to hold our heads up again. We've gone almost three decades without major upheavals or civil unrest, and that's pretty damned good in today's world. Not only did changing things stave off more violence, it was the right thing to do. I guess that would be the real secret, try to find as many places as possible where the right thing to do intersects with what our more reasonable critics want us to do. After that, the loonies won't have many people willing to support them.

The other thing America needs to work on is our time horizon. Changes in world opinion take decades, even lifetimes, but we tend to think of a couple years as being long term. We need to recognize potential threats long before they become violent. If we address those legitimate concerns far enough ahead of time, those who want violence anyway (and they'll always be some absolutists) won't get any traction in the general population. If we wait until suicide bombers start blowing themselves in our restaurants and shopping malls, it's too late. We need to change things long before they get to that point. Not only will learning to recognize and address legitimate gripes before they spin out of control make us safer, it will make us a better people.

Applying this to present day Israel is hard. Not only have things gotten way past the spinning out of control phase, but most of the Palestinian population appears to support the extremists (I say appears, since Palestinians who advocate accomodation tend to wind up dead and there may be a lot more moderates than we know of). My gut instinct would be to continue striking back when attacked (though trying doing so as low profile as possible) while waiting for a lull, or for anything resembling a Palestinian Peace Camp to show its head, then do the things that make sense and are good politics both (stop building new settlements, pull back to more defensible frontiers, offer money to those who give up pre-1949 land claims). It'll be a hard slog, and it won't be easy, but we've got to make our way out of this mess somehow. Striking at the militants while doing things to dry up their support is the only way I know to get there from here.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Mad William Bonney

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

What's Your Pirate Name?

Thanks to Off the Kuff

Haloscan appears to back up (for at least a few minutes), so Comments should now work.

I will now await anxiously the news that my Permalinks have broken.

Mo' Guns

Andrew Edwards of Sketch posted a fairly short piece on gun control in which he made the following points:
I like the Canda vs.US gun control comparison because Canada has such a similar set of cultural inputs to the US, but very different policies towards gun regulation.

Ratio of US murder rate to Canadian murder rate (1998): 3.6 to 1
Ratio of US murder rate to Canadian murder rate counting only murders committed without guns: 1.8 to 1
Ratio of US murder rate to Canadian murder rate counting only murders with guns: 7.9 to 1.
Ratio of US robbery rate to Canadian robbery rate counting only robberies without guns: 1.3 to 1.
Ratio of US robbery rate to Canadian robbery rate counting only robberies with guns: 3.5 to 1.

These numbers seem to me to suggest that restrictions on gun ownership do in fact reduce net rates of violence.

This provoked a mini-debate in the comments section with Armed Liberal (which Andrew Edwards has posted here). in which AL responds:
1) That culturally, we aren't nearly as close as you suggest; among other things, the U.S. had managed to grow and maintain a large urban and rural underclass - black, brown, and white - and when you strip the crime figures out for that underclass (am looking for the study online unsuccessfully) by correlating zip codes - zips for crimes and zips for socio-economic data - you wind up with crime figures comparable to Canada's;

2) That other countries with high levels of gun ownership - New Zealand, Finland, Switzerland to name a few - have crime rates comparable to Canada's;

3) That the statistics you present simply suggest that the wide availability of guns to people who commit crimes in the U.S. means that they choose to commit their crimes with guns, rather than without them.

AE then brings up (and immediately dismisses, unfortunately) what I have always considered a very important point: that lower crime in New Zealand, Finland, et al (and I'll lump Canada in here, too) could be due to completely different factors than gun ownership. It could be that their economic systems produce less crime. They could be much nicer people. It could be any number of things.

If this is true, then it leads to two very important questions:
1) Might the most effective way for the government to lower violent crime in the US be to do something seemingly unrelated to gun control (improve schools, improve job prospects in the inner city, etc)?
2) Might gun control have surprisingly little effect on violent crime in the US due to the other factors driving crime rates up?

If almost all industrialized 1st world nations have lower violent crime rates that the US, while some of those nations have stricter gun laws and some don't, maybe the gun laws aren't the most important factor. Maybe it's government economic or social policies that need to change, not gun laws.

Of the countries mentioned (New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Switzerland), I believe they all have a few factors in common that differentiate them from the United States:
1) Less income disparity between the top and bottom rungs on the socio-economic ladder
2) Considerably better public school systems
3) Some form of universal health insurance
4) No recent history of government sanctioned discrimination against a large ethnic minority (ie. Jim Crow and its Northern relatives)
5) Considerably fewer areas that are almost barren of economic and social opportunity (ie. inner city ghettos and very poor rural areas)
6) Less social disruption due to deindustrialization over the last 30 years
7) A better social safety net for those fallen on hard times
8) Conversely, fewer people who've taken to government dependency as a permanent lifestyle
9) A less brutal and physically violent prison system
10)Fewer opportunities to make monopoly profits through illegal drug sales

Any (or all) of these factors could have far more to do with violent crime rates than gun ownership (or not).

Questions that could be relevant but I'm too fucking lazy to find the answers to:
1) Is the US more urbanized (or suburbanized) than Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Finland
2) Do Americans move around more
3) Consequently, is the American family structure looser and less supportive
4) Does America have a higher rate of single parenting (I won't say unwed parenting since people who live together permanently and raise kids together are likely to have the same effect on the kids whether or not they have state sanction)
5) Does the US have a higher school dropout rate
6) How do the various minimum wages compare
7) Is the US tax code flatter (thus putting more of the burden on the lower and middle ends of the income scale)
8) Do blue collar jobs pay better or worse in the US
9) Are blue collar jobs more scarce in the US
10)Is the pay discrepancy between unskilled and skilled labor higher in the US
11)Do better paying American jobs require a higher education than equivalent jobs elsewhere
12)Is the cost of college higher in the US
13)Do more or fewer American males graduate college than elswhere
14)Does the US have more or fewer males beween the ages of 17 and 30
15)How does the current US murder rate compare to the height of Prohibition
16)What percentage of US murders are gang related
17)What percentage are due to squabbles over drug turf or drug deals gone bad
18)How does the violent crime rate compare across socio-economic levels (do middle class Americans commit more crime than middle class Swiss or Canadians?)
19)Across racial lines
20)Do Native Americans commit more violent crime in the US than in Canada (do they have similarly depressed isolated reservations)
21)Does the weather play a factor (I know murder rates in the Northeast US are much higher in the Summer)
22)Do the other countries have urban neighborhoods that are essentially open-air drug bazaars catering to suburban visitors
23)Does America have a greater perceived income disparity (do poor people thing they're even poorer than they are due to TV, etc)
24)Do crime rates in rural areas track with the amount of income disparity
25)How well do violent crime rates track the economy (I read recently that a 1% increase in unemployment raises the violent crime rate by 6%, but I don't know where he got the stat)
26)Why are my eyes sometimes green and sometimes blue depending on what I'm wearing

Unfortunately, Americans are suckers for single causation theories for social problems (see Alcohol, 1920-1933; also Drugs, 1968-present; also Them Damned Hippies 1967-1974) when life is a lot more complicated than that. It may be that a combination of drug decriminalization, making our prisons marginally less brutal places, better education systems, better economic opportunity for the poor, and breaking up our areas of concentrated poverty would do far more to bring down violent crime rates than gun control (or maybe it wouldn't).
For every complex problem there's an answer which is short, simple, and wrong.
-HL Mencken

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

One thing I forgot to mention in my response to Nathan Alexander:
Currently, 55% of American college students are female, and women graduate more often and generally have higher grades.

Are their any other countries that have a lot more women graduating college than men?
Anyone worried that we'll have a generation of pissed off, undereducated men sulking about losing their places in life to all those damned women?

Reader Tim Waterfield has several valid points, which I'll respond to one by one:
The thing that struck me most about the content was this: the things you are (quite rightly) proud of in America - the strength of women, pluralism, freedom - are the things that a lot of Europeans are most proud of too. It grates when you assert that America is somehow different when Our women play a vital part in the public and economic life of our nation (and especially I'd daresay that women are a bigger part of public life here than in large parts of Western Europe) and Our strength is in our inclusiveness. We don't have any blood or religious requirements for membership. If you're born here, you're an American The British can make those statements about their own country too, as I believe can the French, Dutch, Scandinavians, Italians, Spanish, Swiss, Irish etc.
Britain had a woman Prime Minister, Eire a woman President, many other European heads of state are women.

First, I'd ask that you remember The World is bigger than just the United States and Western Europe. There are far more people in the poor countries of Asia, Africa, and South America than in the developed world. Those also happen to be the countries that give their female citizens the fewest economic, political, and social opportunities. I don't think this is a coincidence.

I stated that we treat women more equally than in large parts of Western Europe, and I'll stand by that. While Scandinavia and Northern Europe get first prize in this particular race (and I wish that we'd follow their examples more closely), I'd say that the United States compares favorably with Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece (or anyplace else in the Balkans). It seems (now that I consider it), that countries touched by the Reformation generally treat their women far more equally than countries left untouched.

As for pluralism, I still don't think that Europeans have the same mindset as Americans (nor should they be expected to, not being a society of immigrants). While a person of Japanese or African ancestry born in Dublin may be legally an Irish citizen, this isn't the same thing as being considered Irish by her countrymen. She could never leave the Emerald Isle and speak with a clear Irish accent, but she'd still not be Irish to most other Irishmen. The same would be true if she were born in Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Greece, or most other European nations. In Germany, of course, she wouldn't even be a citizen (as many 2nd and 3rd generation German-speaking Turks are still considered guest workers despite having lived all their lives in Germany).

Because of their empires, Britain, Holland, and France come the closest of any European nations to the pluralism of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and other immigrant nations. They seem to have gotten the concept, even if it's limited mainly to the larger cities (attitudes in Paris and London can hardly be considered representative).
Walk around any European city and you will see as broad an ethnic mix of people living and working side by side as in any American city. It may be that you are one of the 93% of Americans who don't own a passport and haven't seen this for yourself, but I can assure you we're playing just as big a part in the progressive society.

I've been to more European countries than most Europeans, as well as to North Africa, Mexico, and the Carribean. Misconceptions are not only an American concept. I've had a very nice restauranteur in Malmo Sweden explain to me that all of America's crime is because of blacks and that getting rid of the blacks will solve all the problems.I've seen foreign tourists in America for the first time terrified to step out of their hotel onto a city street because they'd heard how dangerous it was. I've also noticed that movies never show our huge Asian and Hispanic populations (nor draw any distinction between people of differing European descent), leaving others with a very skewed idea of what America is really like.

Even in a city as cosmopolitan as Paris (my 2nd favorite city in the world), the majority of the people you see are of solely French descent and have nothing but French Catholic ancestors. Of course, this is overwhelmingly true in smaller towns throughout France (and France, as I've said, is one of the more pluralistic societies in Europe). This is not an insult or a value judgement of any kind. It's simply a statement of fact. I wouldn't expect it to be any different, as there has been a uniquley French culture for well over a thousand years.

The United States is a nation of immigrants and virtually everyone is of mixed blood. Even people who self-identify with a particular ethnic group (as African- Americans, for instance) or a nation of origin (as many Irish do) probably have as much blood from somewhere else. I am Scots-Irish/French-Lebanese and the United States is one of the few countries in which I would even exist. I had a roommate named Tony Yu who was Swedish/Korean. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who's family has been here at least two generations who is pure-blooded anything. Even small towns in America will have people who's ancestors came from dozens of nations all over the world. We're a nation of mongrels, and that's makes it a lot easier to absorb new dogs into the kennel (to abuse the living shit out of a metaphor).

Another thing I didn't mention, but which is a huge problem in large parts of the world (but not most of Europe) is how rigid class boundaries can be very destructive. The caste system in India has probably done far more to fuck up the economy of a hard-working and vital people as any other factor. Just look at how well Indians do in America when they are freed of the restrictions and expectations that come with caste. Of course, being born middle or upper class in the US is still a huge advantage (see Bush, George W; also Forbes, Steve; also Rockefeller, Jay) as it is elsewhere. A good education, the right connections, and a shitload of money gives you a big leg up anywhere in the world. But the fact that capable people can rise to the top regardless of birth (see Clinton, Big Dog; also Powell, Colin) is a huge advantage in the US and in most of the industrialized world.

Most of the comparisons I was drawing were with the non-Western people who make up most of the World. So many of the benefits that accrue to us from our inclusiveness, our treatment of women, and our permeable class structure also apply in other nations. But I wasn't speaking for them, I was speaking for America. I was trying to point out what makes America such a vibrant place, so that maybe, just maybe, the people in countries that aren't doing so well would think to change their views of outsiders and of women (I also wanted to point out to Americans why we should be thankful for living in a pluralistic society).
We all have to bear our fair share of nazis, fundamentalists, separatists and other extremists, who fund or participate in illegal terrorist or oppressive acts, so none of us is blame-free in the struggle for what I would prefer to call the "Pax Terrana", but that's the price we pay for the overriding principle of allowing people to hold views we violently disagree with.

I agree. While our freedom of speech and of association creates dangers, it's another thing that makes America (and Western Europe) really cool. Not only do we enjoy our freedoms, we benefit from them as well. Freedom makes us more prosperous, and brings to us the hardest working and brightest people from all over the world (well, maybe not wherever the Bushes are from).
Just as Britain thought it's position as the leader of the biggest and greatest Empire the world had ever seen was unassailable a hundred years ago, Americans should also bear in mind that nothing lasts forever. Every empire in history (Roman, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, British etc) has come and gone, and the nature of their going reflected the way in which they ruled. It's the old thing about being nice to people on the way up, because you'll be sure to meet them on the way back down. I hope for America's sake that it continue it's voluntary and admirable role as the World's Policeman in the way you'd hope your neighbourhood community cop to behave, and not to evolve into some kind of Dirty Harry, expending more bullets than words. History tells us that bullets are really boomerangs.

Nothing lasts forever, and I'm quite sure that America's preeminence will one day fade away. However it's incumbent upon us to do the best we can with what we're given, and this is the world as we face it. The only country right now with the economic, military, and political power to intervene anywhere in the world is the United States.

We can stick our head in the sand and hope the rest of the world goes away (the Pat Buchanan approach).

We can apologize constantly for having any power and promise not to use it (the Noam Chomsky approach).

We can manipulate our power to give us short term advantages over weaker nations (the Dick Cheney approach).

Or we can try to use our power both to maintain order and to make the world a better, more livable place for everyone in it, including us, and hopefully leave things a little better than we found them (the Al Gore approach).

I hope we go for #4, but I'm just a cracker from Tennessee. They don't let me call the shots.

Reader Nathan Alexander writes:
In your follow up, you said:
Our women play a vital part in the public and economic life of our nation(something that can't be said of any country in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East excepting Israel). For correction, please look into the history of Communist China. Mao succeeded largely because he appealed to the women and promised to correct their status as 2nd class citizens. For the most part, he did. Women there are employed at far greater rates than in the US, and were from 1949 on. We took until the early 70s to give our women the same levels of opportunity and freedom. They had a woman as the unelected head of state back in the Mid-70s (after Mao's death), pre-dating Hillary's naked power grab by nearly 20 years.

Other than that, though, I really enjoyed both the Message and the Follow Up, and pretty much agree. Just wanted you to have all your facts straight.

I would still classify mainland China as an overwhelmingly patriarchal society in which women's roles are severely circumscribed. Females did become more active in public life after the revolution, but the basis point was so low that even great strides haven't brought them close to parity with males. Political power is wielded by the aged remainder of the revolutionary generation and their successors in the Red Army, all of whom are male (Madame Mao's short stay in power was only because of her closeness to the Chairman himself, not any unique abilities of her own).

Economic power is wielded by the leaders of the Army and by the (always male) heads of a relatively few wealthy families. The time is far away where a woman in China has the same breadth of opportunity as a man in China. Women may have more options in places like Shanghai and Hong Kong than in the hinterland (where most Chinese still live and where a woman's choices are hardly better than they were 50 years ago), she is still likely to be limited to light assembly or clerical work with a male supervisor. It's still quite uncommon for women to rise to the managerial jobs usually reserved for men (much the same system prevails in Japan). Many women may be in the workforce, but they are mostly clustered at the low end of it.

Socially, women are still considered a man's inferior and aren't considered anything close to an equal. Unfortunately, Chinese social values are rooted in the peasant system, in which a male is an heir and someone to care for you in your dotage, while a female is a burden and someone who will be busy caring for her husband's family. This has lead to the disastrous situation in which families abort females over and over until they get a male child.

It has been estimated that China may have as many as 130 males for every 100 females in the rising generation due to infanticide and sex selection before birth. This will likely cause severe social disruption as disaffected young males (primarily poor) can't find females with whom to mate and turn their anger against society. Having 30% of your young male population pissed off and lonely isn't a recipe for stability.

It will be interesting to see if their scarcity causes a rise in the relative value of females to society, or whether it further circumscribes their options as society tells them to stay home and make babies. Either way, Chinese women (while far better off than most women in the Middle East or Africa) have a long way to go until they have the range of options available to Chinese men.

I just got this email, which speaks for itself:
Hello William,

My name is Dvir, I'm 25 year old, and I'm Shiri's cousin.
I wanted to thank you on behalf of my entire family for helping us make Shiri's death as little meaningless as possible.
Thanks to your post, many people have entered Shiri's web site, and had the chance to relate to her, and maybe this way it will help eradicate the appalling phenomenon of suicide bombing around the world.

I hope to see you in Israel some day after things calm down. I'm sure it will be a profound experience for you, and you'll see all the places that Shiri loved so much here.

Thank you so much,
Dvir Netanely - Shiri's cousin.


I know I'm opening up a world of pain by doing this, but I've got a question:
Can someone point me towards some unbiased data on gun ownership and violent crime rates in America, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, England, France, Australia, and New Zealand (or any of the above) over the last 50 years or so?

Many, many caveats:
1) I want original sources, if at all possible (no opinion pieces, wire service reports, or similar 3rd hand reportage, please)
2) I would like the methods used to be as transparent as possible (I need to know how they came up with the numbers involved)
3) I want the methodology to be unbiased (I know this is hard to come by), no comparing apples and oranges to make the apples look either better or worse
4) If at all possible, I'd like the violent crime rates broken down by ones using guns and not using guns, with murders separate from other violent crimes (I know this is gonna be very difficult, since some countries apparently lump attempted murder and murder together for statistical purposes)
5) It would be great if books were available at the finest damned library in the South (click on Library Catalog and Online Resources and then on Library Catalog to search by author or title) and if other things were available online or in reference library (I'm not rich)

Examples of what I don't want:
1) Data that includes 19 year old crack dealers under the category: "Child Victims of Gun Crime"
2) Nebulous "polling data" that insists 3 million crimes a year are averted by the presence of a gun
3) One-sided polemics that don't give sources (or for which the sources are one-sided polemics)

I'm looking for good hard data that passes the sniff test (if it smells like bullshit, it probably is).
Anyone with suggestions can either email me or post a comment up above the word Guns once Haloscan comes back online.

Please don't email lengthy diatribes (I won't read 'em), and no attachments (I won't open 'em).

I know I sound real picky, but good data on this is hard to find.
Thank you
Haloscan is down, so no comments for now. Removed Javascript because I was getting repeated errors when loading page. Will reinstall once Haloscan is back up.

May be close to resolving bizarre Permalinks/Archiving problem.

Update: Now have Permalinks working except for week of Sept 8th to Sept 14th.

Updated Update: I've now manually moved all the posts from Sept 8th-14th to other dates (don't ask). All Permalinks made from now on should work. If there's a problem, please let me know so I can put my head through the fucking monit fix it immediately.

Thank you for your time and confusion.

Anybody have some Holy Water and the Eye of a Newt handy?

An American Responds

Ampersand is very kind to my writing other than An American's Message To The World, which didn't go over well at all:
In contrast, the "American's Statement to the World" - which William seems unduly proud of - struck me as a mix of good-but-obvious points [e.g., oppressing women is bad] and the usual Americans-refuse-to-acknowledge-that-the-U.S.-has-ever-done-anything-blameworthy jingoistic bullshit. And I wonder if William realized how incredibly condescending his tone was - maybe he did, the piece was deliberately funny

Allow me to retort:
I wrote my Message To The World in an attempt both to cut through the jingoistic bullshit floating around the blogosphere and the we can't do anything about being attacked because we've acted like such shits in the past paralysis that seems to grip some of those in the peace camp (see Chomsky, Noam; also Cockburn, Alexander). I thinks it's important that people know that we will defend ourselves, but that we genuinely don't want to kill innocent people if it can be helped (and sometimes it can't be; that's the fucked up nature of modern warfare). We're mostly neither pacifists nor Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out hawks. We're just people, trying to get by in an imperfect world.

I also wanted to point out what I see to be America's strongest points:
1) Our women play a vital part in the public and economic life of our nation (something that can't be said of any country in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East excepting Israel). We wouldn't be where we are without their contributions . I'd daresay that women are a bigger part of public life here than in large parts of Western Europe. This has only become true in my lifetime, but we should still be very proud of it.
2) Our strength is in our inclusiveness. We don't have any blood or religious requirements for membership. If you're born here, you're an American (and a lot of people not born here become ones, too). Doesn't matter if it pisses Pat Buchanan and Marge Schott off or not. You're here. They can get used to it (or move to Idaho). You can be a Japanese Baptist, or a Irish Buddhist, or a Jewish atheist. It does't matter. You're still an American. This is, historically speaking, a pretty fucking radical idea, one unheard of 200 years ago. It's also what gives us such a vibrant, colorful, and fluid society.

I know that America has done some really crappy things in the past. I know that we've helped overthrow elected leaders (see Allende, Salvador); install and prop up dictators (see Phlavi, Reza; also Somoza, Anastasio); even loosed sickening plagues upon the Earth. But that doesn't have a fucking thing to do with the current situation. If we'd been the worst nation on Earth (and we've been far from that.....go back to your cubbyhole now, Noam), we'd still have a right to defend ourselves against attack and preempt imminent attack (note to Dubya: I said imminent attack, not I've been planning to off this fucker since Daddy lost to Bubba).

As an American, I feel absolutely no need to preface my statements with a list of all the shitty things we've done in the past. Nor do I feel that I'm not allowed to point out my country's many virtues. I wouldn't expect an Englishman to list all the ways the British Empire fucked up the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent before saying anything good about his nation (but I would expect an Irishman to). I wouldn't expect a Frenchman to explain Vichy, Algeria, and Vietnam. I wouldn't even expect a Belgian to mention the Congo or Jean Claude van Damme. Let's not even get into Germany and Japan, ok? Given that, I don't see how anything I wrote can be confused with refuse-to-acknowledge-that-the-U.S.-has-ever-done-anything-blameworthy jingoistic bullshit. If it can be, tell me how?

We all have the right to speak our minds without having to list all the bad shit our respective countries/religions/ideologies are responsible for (since I'm a Southern Scots-Irish/French-Lebanese Methodist/Mormon/Maronite/Catholic capitalistic Pax Americana New Deal Democrat Cub fan, I'm very grateful). I was speaking mine. I'm proud to be an American, and our pluralism is the #1 reason why.

BTW: I'm from Tennessee. We can only be condescending to people from Mississippi (and then only if they don't live near the beach).

Monday, September 16, 2002


Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.
Though I am not Jewish, nor religious at all, I do feel that I have something to atone for.
Until I stumbled across the homepage of Shiri Negari (pictured in my last post), I had not truly thought about Israeli victims of terror as individuals. Yes, I wanted the attacks to stop. Yes, I felt bad when Israelis died. But I never thought of them in the same way as I thought of the victims of Sept 11th.

Part of this is due to proximity and self-identification. I've been to New York. I have a picture of my son standing in front of the World Trade Center. A friend of my mother died when the buildings collapsed. I'm an American. I'm not an Israeli. I've never been there (though I was supposed to go to Haifa in 1989, my ship ended up spending the time off the coast of Lebanon instead). I don't know anyone who's died there. I could use this as an excuse.

Unfortunately, there is also another reason. I allowed myself to fall (somewhat) into the same mindset as the idiots who partly blame America for the attacks on Sept 11th. I disagree with the settlement policies of the Israeli government and think that they contribute to their own problems (much as many Europeans disagree with American foreign policy and think that it contributes to our own problems). Subconsciously, I let this diminish the loss of the Israeli victims of terror. I let my disagreements with the Israeli government affect how I felt about the innocent Israelis murdered by their enemies (much as many people let their feelings about the United States government affect how they feel about American victims of terror). I didn't consider the attacks in Israel justified in any way, but I somehow didn't consider them as unjustified as attacks on America. I was wrong.

For this, I apologize.

The killing of Israelis within Israel is no less a crime than the killing of Americans within America. Both are equally wrong. Neither can be excused, nor even diminished, by disagreements with our governments. We, as free peoples, should know this in our bones. Murder is murder. A victim is a victim. Our loss is no greater than theirs.

On this, the Day of Atonement, I apologize to the Israeli victims of terror and to their families for diminshing their loss in any way (no matter how unconsciously, no matter to what degree) and attempt to makes amends by telling some their stories to you now:

Tehila Maoz worked at a Sbarro pizza in Jerusalem. She was murdered two weeks shy of her 19th birthday by a suicide bomber.

5 year old Danielle Shefi was murdered in her parents bedroom by gunmen disguised as IDF soldiers.

51 year old Yair Har Sinai was a shepherd who did not carry a weapon as a matter of personal principle. He went out unarmed to tend to his sheep in the Hebron hills, and was found the next day shot at close range in the back and head.

32 year old Suheil Adawi, an Israeli Arab, was filling in for his brother at their family's restaurant in Haifa when he was murdered by a suicide bomber.

76 year old George Yakobovitch was a Holocaust survivor from Hungary. He was murdered by a suicide bomber during Passover seder.

21 year old Orit Hayla came to Israel from Ethiopia at the age of 4. She was murdered by a suicide bomber onboard on a bus in Jerusalem, where she lived.

25 year old Boris Shamis worked as a cook,and had only been in Israel from Russia 7 months before his murder by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv.

19 year old Maysoun Amin Hassan, an Israeli Druze, was accompanying her sister to a college entrance exam when she was murdered onboard a bus by a suicide bomber.

19 year old Tomer Mordechai was a border policeman from Tel Aviv. He was murdered by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem when he stopped a car and asked for ID.

89 year old Srah Levy-Hoffman survived Auschwitz and moved to Israel in 1949. She was murdered by a suicide bomber during Passover seder.

17 year old Adi Shiran of Haifa was murdered in the same blast that killed Suheil Adawi while eating dinner with her parents. She wanted to study acting in London.


A Fine Young Woman

Shiri Negari was a beautiful young Israeli woman (seen here in America as a teenager) on her way to work by bus. Now she's dead, because some useless pieces of shit decided that murdering civilians makes a good political statement. There's nothing else I can say.

Go to her homepage to read all about her.


Due to bizarre archival problems, am having to move all posts out of week of Sept 8th-14th (don't ask).
These are several dealing with same subject:

Stopping Terror, Not Just Stomping Terror

Robert Wright is 5 parts into the 9 part series A Real War on Terrorism., and has made some really good points. These are Wright's 6 Propositions and 7 Policy Prescriptions:

Proposition No. 1: Al-Qaida and radical Islam are not the problem.....the threat posed by radical Islam is just a wave that signifies a deeper, even more menacing current.
Proposition No. 2: For the foreseeable future, smaller and smaller groups of intensely motivated people will have the ability to kill larger and larger numbers of people.
Proposition No. 3: The number of intensely aggrieved groups will almost certainly grow in the coming decades of rapid technological, and hence social, change.
Proposition No. 4: The amount of discontent in the world is becoming a highly significant national-security variable.
Proposition No. 5: The current phase in the evolution of information technology is anti-repression......Authoritarian governments everywhere are going to find it harder and harder to hold down restless masses.
Proposition 6: The problem isn't poor people; the poor nations, or in refined form Part of the problem is poor nations—or, at least, underglobalized nations.....A basic law of nature is that young males will seek status and recognition through locally available channels. The object of the game is to make those channels lead to contentment and, ideally, productive engagement with the world.

Prescription No. 1: Take your bitter medicine early.....if there are burdens we can bear now—in money, even in lives—that will dampen future terrorism, they're probably worth it.
Prescription No. 2: The substance of policies should be subjected to a new kind of appraisal, one that explicitly accounts for the discontent and hatred the policies arouse.....terrorism is fundamentally a "meme"—a kind of "virus of the mind," a set of beliefs and attitudes that spreads from person to person. One way to squelch terrorism is to kill or arrest the people whose brains are infected with the meme.....But some forms of killing and arresting—especially the kinds that get us bad publicity—do so much to spread the meme that our enterprise suffers a net loss.
Prescription No. 3: The ultimate target is memes; killing or arresting people is useful only to the extent that it leads to a net reduction in terrorism memes.
Prescription No. 4: In a war on terrorism, applying force inconspicuously makes sense more often than in regular wars.
Prescription No. 5: Support free expression and, ultimately, democratization in authoritarian Arab and other Muslim states.
Prescription No. 6: Draw Islamic nations—and for that matter all nations—into the web of global capitalism.
Prescription No. 7: Emphasize trade at least as heavily as aid in fighting the kind of economic deprivation that breeds terrorism.

In essence, Wright posits that we shouldn't take military action against perceived threats without taking into account whether those actions, or the way they'll be portrayed in the media, will cause more future terrorism than the action will stop. Note: He does not say that we shouldn't take action that will inflame our enemies or even that will cause future terrorism. He simply states that we should take the all the effects of our actions into account, not just the most immediate and quantifiable ones.

The Bush Administration (and most webloggers) see the War on Terror as an extension of a traditional military or law enforcement action: see terrorists....stomp more terrorists....scare other people into not becoming terrorists. Unfortunately, the situation is more complex than that. Some actions we could take (the stomp terrorists bit) might actually increase the number of terrorists arrayed against us, by spreading the terrorist meme (in Wright's use of the word). If we were dealing with normal criminals or with "rogue states", the example of stomping would serve to scare potential criminals and potential "rogue states" into better behavior. But we're not (not entirely). A state may be scared by the example that we set in Afganistan (and many undoubtedly are), and a rational political leader acting in self-interest may be too (hence Yassir Arafat jumping to condemn the Sept 11th attacks, he knows he could be taken out at any time and doesn't want to die), but the meme involved, hatred of the United Sates, can spread even faster than we can kill.

The old paradigm of intimindation needs to be replaced by Wright's Prescription No. 4: In a war on terrorism, applying force inconspicuously makes sense more often than in regular wars. This is far from saying that we should never use force, force will definitely be needed in dealing with scumbags like bin Laden and Al Queda. What it means is that our use of force should be as out of the limelight as possible. We need to stomp the terrorists who need to be stomped, but in a way that doesn't serve to spread the hate America meme. The intimidation or Show of Force so loved by webloggers may be much less effective than something quiet and completely unnoticed by anyone not intimately involved.

Wright uses the example of us very publicly taking on the small Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the Phillipines. They have operated more as gangsters than as terrorists, kidnapping tourists for profit but making no effort to export either violence or their ideology. By very publicly sending aid and "advisors" to battle some nominally Muslim guerillas in a country with a bad history of American imperialism, we may have actually contributed to the net amount of anti-American terrorism in the world. Not only did it increase resentment of America in the Phillipines as a whole (with demonstrators having to be subdued with water cannons), but it may also be used by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (a much larger and more ideological group) as a tool to recruit resentful Muslims into the hate America meme.

To use a hypothetical example: If we knew that Osama bin Laden was alive and well in Mecca, and the Saudis refused to do anything about it for fear of inciting Saudi public opinion, should we
1) Declare war on Saudi Arabia, bomb Mecca and insert the Marines, killing bin Laden along with thousands of innocent Muslims.
2) Insert a small strike force to take out bin Laden
3) Get the Saudis to take out bin Laden with no publicity, by whatever means necessary
4) Leave him alone, hoping to get him another time

1) An attack on Mecca would turn the huge part of Muslim world against us. Any regime that sided with us would be in severe danger of being toppled. No American would be safe on the streets of any Muslim country for more than a generation. Leaving aside organized attacks against the US, there would be attacks on individual Americans all over the world and terrorist attacks by individual Muslims within America costing thousands of American lives. Would almost certainly get bin Laden.
2) Would cause major international incident, possibly a break in diplomatic relations and another oil embargo. Would turn at least some Muslims onto hate America meme. Would most likely work, but could fail in getting bin Laden. Could blow up in face into something resembling #1.
3) Would require extreme secrecy, but could be done without inciting anti-American hatred (my choice would be to quietly arrest/kidnap every Saudi royal and diplomat outside of the country and make it known that every royal still at large was in danger until bin Laden was handed over). Would most likely work, but could fail in getting bin Laden. Could blow up in face into something resembling #1.
4) Wouldn't incite hatred, but may increase the chance of the US being targeted after show of abject weakness. Would not get bin Laden.

My choice would be either #2 or #3. Unfortunately, we'd probably end up with #1 or #4.

A real life example (mine, not Wright's) where the Show of Force and attempted intimidation backfired by spreading the hate America meme.
Randy Weaver may very well have been violating Federal gun laws in his mountain cabin, but he wasn't commiting any acts of terrorism or threatening the lives of any innocent Americans. In going after him the way they did, with massive force and a lot of publicity, the ATF and FBI managed to spread the anti-government meme at the same time they were subduing someone who believed in it. Millions of Americans saw what was happening at Ruby Ridge, and a number of them turned against the United States government, deciding that it was an occupying force and didn't deserve their support (for proof, type Ruby Ridge and Waco into any search engine). One of them was a young man named Timothy McVeigh. He was executed last year for the greatest act of terrorism on US soil before Sept 11th. Some people who believed what McVeigh believed but didn't take action are still out there.
If Americans can turn against our government when they see overwhelming force deployed on its behalf, why shouldn't we expect foreigners to do so?

Armed Liberal makes similar points to mine and tells an interesting story:

our deeds and policies have both physical and ‘psychological’ reactions. We need to think through the ‘psychological’ ones carefully, and make sure that the reaction in that sphere doesn’t outweigh the physical effect......

On the other hand…does anyone else remember the story in the 80’s about the Russian response to a kidnapping of one of their embassy staff in Beirut? This was when Western diplomats and journalists were being kidnapped and held hostage fairly frequently. The story was, and I remember reading this in the paper at the time, that the Russians had sent over a spetsnaz team, who kidnapped members of the clan who did the kidnapping, and sent several of their body parts in lieu of cash to the kidnappers…who promptly released the hostage, and never took another. We parked aircraft carriers off the beach and sent a bunch of negotiators.

Which was the effective response?? And, in the context of who we are and want to be, how do we duplicate the effect of the effective response? I’m not exactly sure, but it involves small, quiet, probably lethal actions in lieu of the large and loud actions we tend to take.

Two biggest problems I see with operating in secret:
1) Actions taken in secret in the past have usually been for economic or parochial reasons, not for real national security ones (coups in Guatemala, Iran, Chile, etc). When they come to light, these have often made us permanent enemies and contributed to anti-Americanism. Hard to be sure history won't repeat itself.
2) Too big a temptation for politicians to trumpet latest success for political gain, rather than letting things lie and not stir up resentment

Sorry about formatting errors in last long post, damed Blogger won't let me edit it.

Tomorrow, I'll take on some criticisms of Wright and see how his points apply to Iraq.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Tilting at Strawmen

aka Beware the Hostile Paraphrase

Eugene Volokh misinterprets Robert Wright's series on fighting terror so badly that I needed to reread Wright and then reread Volokh to make sure it was true. In a post entitled APPEASEMENT RAISED TO THE ULTIMATE IMPERATIVE, Volokh states
But I think Wright is missing an absolutely fundamental point: Trying to get people to love us -- especially the sorts of people who might become suicide bombers, or even cheerleaders for suicide bombers -- may actually make them love us less. The problem with appeasement isn't some abstraction about honor or sticking to one's guns. Appeasement is often in a very basic way counterproductive.

This may very well be true, but it doesn't have anything to do with Wright's essay at all. Wright never claimed that we should try to get people to love us as a means of combatting terror. Essentially, Volokh misparaphrases Wright's point and then spends the rest of his post blowing that point (which Wright never made) out of the water. It makes me wonder if Volokh (a much busier man than me) even bothered to read the piece at all. He seems to be arguing more against the header that a Slate editor gave it on their Table of Contents, Making America safer means making America more popular, than he does against anything Wright actually said in his series of articles.

This is why we should be very, very careful about accepting a Hostile Paraphrase at face value. If a reader of Volokh's post didn't read the articles by Robert Wright, he might've assumed that Wright actually advocated trying to get people to love us (the exact words of Volokh's paraphrase) as a way to cut down on terrorism, and that reader may end up agreeing with Volokh that it's not a good idea. Unfortunately, that reader would've come away with the impression that he disagreed with Robert Wright without actually having come into contact with Wright's actual ideas. Two things we should all learn from this:
1) If someone paraphrases an argument and then proceeds to take issue with it, make sure they're paraphrasing the argument correctly. It's a lot easier to mis-state an opponent's argument (making it weaker it the process) and attack the mis-statement than it is to attack his argument in its strongest form.
2) If you paraphrase someone's argument, make sure your paraphrase is accurate or, better yet, quote them directly

To quote Wright directly:
Even when American foreign policy is concerned with old-fashioned political actors—prime ministers, presidents, kings—public opinion abroad matters as never before. The wave of democratization over the past few decades has made many foreign governments more responsive to their citizens. Even non-democratic governments—notably some in the Islamic world—have to pay more attention to public sentiment as the information revolution proceeds; their ability to shape that sentiment via centralized control of the media is fading, while the ability of dissidents to organize grows. More and more, how governments treat America—including how thoroughly they cooperate in the war on terrorism—will depend on how their people feel about America.
To put it another way: We have to understand that terrorism is fundamentally a "meme"—a kind of "virus of the mind," a set of beliefs and attitudes that spreads from person to person. One way to squelch terrorism is to kill or arrest the people whose brains are infected with the meme, and the Bush administration has done some of that effectively. But some forms of killing and arresting—especially the kinds that get us bad publicity—do so much to spread the meme that our enterprise suffers a net loss. So, policy prescription No. 2, in some contexts, can be more precisely stated as Policy Prescription No. 3: The ultimate target is memes; killing or arresting people is useful only to the extent that it leads to a net reduction in terrorism memes.
The Philippines escapade resulted from taking the phrase "war on terrorism" literally and thinking of the enemy as a finite group of warriors, rather than a contagious mind-set that may spawn new warriors faster than you kill the old ones. We mounted a "show of force"—something that may work when you're trying to intimidate a potentially aggressive nation but that may backfire when the enemy is, in part, Muslim resentment of American power and arrogance. This suggests Policy Prescription No. 4: In a war on terrorism, applying force inconspicuously makes sense more often than in regular wars.
The potential for the pursuit of enemies to backfire applies also within America's borders. The surveillance of mosques, the interrogation of donors to Islamic charities, the detention of Muslim-American citizens for weeks without filing any charges—these things can definitely help prevent terrorist attacks. But to the extent that they make Muslim Americans feel persecuted, they also have a downside, such as making things like the July 4 airport shooting[in which an Arab gunman residing in the US shot up the El Al counter at LAX, not as part of an organized attack, but acting alone and apparently unprovoked] more common. My point isn't that the downside is clearly outweighing the upside; the upside of the administration's police work, both at home and abroad, has been considerable, and in most cases the net result is no doubt a gain. My point is just that administration deliberations and public debate should go beyond their present scope—the valid question of whether we're "violating civil liberties" in a legal or moral sense—and raise the separate question of whether in some cases we're planting the seeds of our own future suffering. It isn't in America's interest for the only check on Attorney General John Ashcroft's zeal to be negative feedback from judges.
Remarkably, even after 9/11, conservative pundits were still dismissing concerns about the opinion of "the Arab Street" since the street, however angry, never seemed to boil over and topple a regime. But those 19 hijackers started out on "the Arab Street," and if "the Arab Street" weren't full of hatred of America, the Twin Towers would still be standing.

Volokh almost seems to agree with Wright when he writes
Now, let me give Wright his due: (1) Empirically, it is true that some things that we do can enrage some people and can lead them to try to attack us. (2) This concern has always been, and should remain, a part of sound policy planning. (3) At least some ways in which we can try to make people love us are generally unobjectionable.
Since those are essentially Wright's points. But then he goes off into arguing against trying to get people to love us, which was never Wright's point.

Now, to the meat of Volokh's statement. Note how he puts what he is arguing against in quotation marks even though he isn't quoting anyone; he is making up a nonexistant argument, a strawman if you will (and I think you will), to attack and discredit.

To quote Volokh directly:
Consider, for instance, our public statements about Palestinians and Israelis. Sure, they might well enrage some Arabs, though of course any endorsement of Israel's right to exist and any criticism of Arafat will enrage some (maybe many) Arabs. But if we were to make "avoid enraging Arabs with our statements, for fear that they'll bomb us" a prominent part of American policy, what would the consequence be? First, many Arabs would see that Arab terrorism, and the threat of more to come, has succeeded very well in changing our national policy. Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated; this success will thus create an incentive to threaten more terrorism.
MEMES: But the trick, I think, is precisely to treat such minimization of accidental killing (assuming, of course, that the killing is indeed an inadvertent byproduct of an attack on what one sees as a military target) as acts of charity and decency, and not of obligation or fear. Wright talks a lot in his article about the need to spread the right "memes" (ideas that then get passed on from person to person) but misses this basic meme-related point. If we spread the idea "We promise to inflict virtually no damage on civilians," then the very spread of this idea will lead those who might hate us to judge us under a more demanding standard than if we spread the idea "This is war, and civilians will unfortunately accidentally die, especially when enemy soldiers hide among civilians, though out of kindness, we'll try to some extent to minimize this." This is true if the idea we spread is "We promise to inflict virtually no damage on civilians because we feel that this is morally required" -- then, when accidents do happen, or military necessity requires more aggressive action, our own hasty promise will have condemned us as moral monsters. And it's true if the idea we spread is "We promise to inflict virtually no damage on civilians because we realize that injury to civilians will make us hated" -- then, when damage does get inflicted, those who hate us will feel even more justification, because it looks like we're trifling with their anger (an anger that we ourselves acknowledged ought to make us tremble).

I quote the entire pargraphs to show how Volokh constructs his strawman. He acts as if
if we were to make "avoid enraging Arabs with our statements, for fear that they'll bomb us" a prominent part of American policy
"We promise to inflict virtually no damage on civilians,"
or even (and all these quotation marks are Volokh's)
"We promise to inflict virtually no damage on civilians because we realize that injury to civilians will make us hated"
were accurate depictions of the way Wright would have us run our foreign policy. They're not.
A much more accurate paraphrase of Wright's writing would be to say "We'll take into account whether our public statements will make us hated" or "we'll take into account whether a military action will cause civilian casualties", or even "we'll take into account whether civilian casualties will make us more hated", but if we need to take action to defend ourselves we will, even if it means civilian casualties. Unfortunately, he's so busy whacking away at that strawman he's constructed that he doesn't see that Wright mostly agrees with him. You won't see Wright arguing that our government policy should be to "inflict virtually no civilian casualties" nor that we should minimize the killing of civilians out of "obligation or fear".

Volokh quotes the first half of a Wright paragraph early on in his essay
From the beginning of the Afghanistan campaign, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dismissed reporters' questions about civilian casualties: "When one is engaged militarily ... there are going to be unintended loss of life. It has always been the case, it certainly will be the case in this instance." In other words: Why make a big deal about what has been a feature of all past American wars? Answer: Because something basic has changed. Back during World War II, when Rumsfeld came of age, enemy civilian casualties had essentially no bearing on America's national security. Now they increase the chances of American civilians dying in the future.
but not the second half
(Obviously, military action that risks "collateral damage" can make sense even in light of this fact; the initial liberation of Afghanistan from Taliban control was extremely valuable from the standpoint of both the average American and the average Afghan—and, in fact, it was accomplished with fewer civilian casualties than many had feared, though arguably more than was necessary.)
I guess showing that Wright was willing to act even if it meant civilian casualties would've undermined Volokh's case, so it was just easier to leave that part out.

I will try to get to the valid points left in Volokh's post (and he has some). I just wanted to point out first how few of them actually addressed anything Wright has written. I don't like these sort of strawman arguments from anyone, and I'd expected better from someone as smart as Eugene Volokh. I don't expect better from idiots like Rush Limbaugh, put I still try to point out when they pull stunts like this (but it does get exhausting).