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Those who choose our representatives in government should understand something about government. A knowledge of civics is essential to being an informed voter.
1. The nature of our legislature, with one house apportioned by population, and the other house apportioned by state, is a result of a compromise at our constitutional convention between:
- a. Loyalists and Patriots
- b. Democrats and Republicans
- c. Tories and Whigs
- d. Large and Small states
- e. Slave states and Free state
2. If there is a tie vote in the Senate a tie breaker vote is cast by:
- a. the Vice President
- b. the President Pro Temp
- c. the Speaker of the House
- d. the Senate Majority Leader
- e. the Secretary of State
3. The largest expenditure in the current federal budget is for:·
- a. Foreign Aid·
- b. Military Spending·
- c. Social Security·
- d. Welfare·
- e. Education
4. In terms of the total federal taxes paid which of the following is true:·
- a. The bottom 50% of earners pay the same as the top 10%·
- b. The bottom 50% pay slightly less than the top 10%·
- c. The bottom 50% pay slightly more than the top 10%·
- d. The bottom 50% pay much more than the top 10%·
- e. The bottom 50% pay much less than the top 10%
5. Which amendment extends the constitutions restrictions on the federal government to the states?·
- a. the Second·
- b. the 14th·
- c. the 25th·
- d. the First·
- e. the Fifth.
I think these questions are fair and clearly worded. What do you think?
A person can not understand the current world without understanding history. So I am including the following questions in my test. Knowing the answer to these questions is important and also would signal a knowledge of history.
1.What event caused the breakup of the Ottoman empire?
- a. WWII
- b. WWI
- c. The Crimean War
- d. The Iranian Revolution
- e. The Franco-Prussian war
2. What was the outcome of the 'The Great Leap Forward'?
- a. The Russian Revolution
- b. The Chinese developing the atomic bomb
- c. A huge famine
- d. The invention of the assembly line
- e. The opening of Japan to western ideas
3. What caused the original split in Islam between the Sunnis and the Shiites?
- a. Dispute over who authored the Koran.
- b. Dispute between residents of Mecca and Medinah
- c. Dispute over meaning of jihad
- d. Dispute over who took over after Muhammed's death.
- e. Dispute over role of women in society
4. The outcome of which of these Civil War Battles is considered most strategically important?
- a. Cold Harbor
- b. Vicksburg
- c. Shiloh
- d. Fredricksburg
- e. Wilderness
5. The seige of what city is considered the turning point on the eastern front of WWII?
- a. Stalingrad
- b. Leningrad
- c. Volgograd
- d. Moscow
- e. Minsk
6. What foreign country was the source of the most support to the US during the American revolution?
- a. Russia
- b. Spain
- c. England
- d. Germany
- e. France
I think they are clearly worded and fair, but what do you think?
A couple of weeks ago I attended a book forum for Bryan Caplan's book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, at the CATO institute. I had thought the CATO institute was a libertarian think tank but found out otherwise when they served a free luncheon after the forum. During the Q&A after Caplan's presentation I asked if it was possible for layman to know how to vote for a rational economic policy without putting in the time and trouble to become an expert in economics. His reply was bascially," No, only PhDs in economics should vote." I have been thinking it over since then and have come up with a way to make voting somewhat more rational.
My first thought was that even if I did get a PhD in economics I would not be a qualified voter. There is much more to government than economic policy. There is criminal justice, education, foreign policy, social policy, etc.. So to be a qualified voter one would need degrees in constitutional law, sociology, and international relations. The only qualified voters would be professional students and the actual productive people in society would be out of luck.
My second thought was to rely on specialization. It works so well in the rest of the economy. If I want a rational opinion on my health I go to a doctor who has studied for years so I don't have to. I could pick an expert in economics, foreign policy, and domestic policy and vote the way they do. The problem with this is how do I know who is an expert. For economic policy should I rely on Paul Krugman or Greg Mankiw? Tyler Cowen or Brad Delong? I know who I like amongst those, but I really don't know who is a better economist. To really know I would have to become an expert myself which would defeat the purpose of relying on an expert.
The way around this would be to use specialization and aggregation. Rely on surveys of experts on particular topics. Caplan used one such survey in writing his book. There should be a Rotten Tomatoes type of index for experts in public policy where various expert opinions on topics are collected and policy initiatives are given ratings depending on the level of expert support. The problem with this approach is that, to my knowledge, no such sites exist and surveys such as the one Caplan used are rare.
After rejecting all these approaches I went back to Caplan's presentation. He breaks down the populace into three categories; economists, enlightened laity, population at large. Economists have the most correct views on the economy but almost as good was the enlightened laity. They have much less biased and more rational views on the economy. If only the enlightened laity voted, candidates supporting better economic policies would be elected. Probably not as good as if only economists voted but an incremental improvement, which I believe are the best kind. (See previous posts for an explanation why). I think I am an enlightened voter, my standardized test scores were always in the top 5% and I got all the answers correct on the Pew Research Centers quiz on current events the last time I took it.
However, I am probably not the best judge of my own political rationality. After all the guy I met at Home Depot who was convinced the draft was going to be reinstated just after the 2004 election if Bush won, and my friend who is convinced that corporations have way too much power, both are convinced of their own rationality. What is needed is an objective standard for who is and is not a member of the enlightened laity. The most common and easy to measure objective standard is a test. There needs to be a test that will tell you if you are a member of the enlightened laity and should vote. Since I am not aware of the existence of such a test, I am going to create one. The question is what should go on this test? I am looking for multiple choice questions on history, current events, economics, etc. Leave any ideas in the comments and I will create a test that will tell people if they should be voting or not.
With the NBA draft coming up it occurs to me that electing a president is like drafting a player. You hope to extrapolate from a candidates past history how they will perform in a similar job under much higher pressure. Recently the NBA barred entrants into the draft directly from high school. One of the reasons they did this was to give teams more meaningful ways of evaluating talent in hopes of avoiding busts such as Kwame Brown. The more meaningful data a team has about a player the safer the pick becomes. If it is possible to predict future performance, the more meaningful data the better the prediction. In baseball if a team has a choice between someone who averaged 35 home runs a year for five years, and someone who hit 40 home runs last year, the safer pick is the first player, because the one good year could be a statistical anomaly.
In presidential politics it should be even more important to avoid mistakes than in sports drafts. After all if a team makes a huge mistake in the draft, there is another one next year and there are alternate ways to acquire players. If the public makes a bad choice for president, we are pretty much stuck with that choice for four years and we only get one president at a time. However, unlike in sports drafts, experience in presidential politics seems to be a liability. Of the seven candidates who have a chance of being elected only one (McCain) has a long record of elected office to evaluate. What seems to me the most likely pairing in the general election will match two senators, both with one and a half terms experience (Hillary vs. Thompson). Both parties have many more potential candidates with much more experience but they have failed to gain any traction.
The reason for this is one of the main facts that shape our political races, it is much easier to lose votes than it is to gain them. The more decisions you have made the more likely it is for someone to find one of those decisions and vote against the the candidate because of it. People will vote against you for strange reasons, such as how you transport your dog or how you voted for something ten years ago. As a result we have candidates who have less experience, it is harder to make an informed decision about who to vote for, and we get candidates who are smooth talking lightweights(You Know Who).
I was reading a post last week about a woman's decision to not have any children. It seems odd to me that people willingly deprive themselves of life's greatest joy. Thinking over reasons for doing so, one possible reason may be because of pop-Freudianism.
The theories of Freud have resonated in our culture to a surprisingly large extent considering that their principle application, the theory that insight into the causes of behavior will lead to changing of behavior, has proven false. His theories have elegance to them and the appeal of secret knowledge which is hard to resist. However, this does not explain how they have lasted so long in the public imagination without evidence to support them. One reason they have lasted so long is that undergoing psychoanalysis is enjoyable. Talking about your past and your dreams is something most people like to do. However, listening to other people talk about their dreams and their childhoods can be excruciating. Psychoanalysis gives people someone to talk to and the veneer of science which helps convince them they are not wasting their time and money.
The other main reason Freudian theories have lasted so long is that they help reduce cognitive dissonance. People do bad things all the time, yet few people think of themselves as a bad person. So to minimize imbalance between their actions and their self image they find rationalizations for bad behavior. Freud's theories as trickled down to pop psychology are great for rationalizations. They allow people to blame the things they do not like about themselves on the way they were raised. Since no one can change the past people become helpless victims who can not help but act the way they do. Thus people can act in destructive ways and instead of feeling bad about themselves they feel angry at their parents.
The implications of this idea are good for the self images of neurotics but dangerous for prospective parents. If every decision a parent makes is a minefield with potential implications for the rest of the child’s life, parenting becomes fraught with risk. If you don't potty train your toddler correctly, he'll be tidying up for the rest of his life, explain the birds and the bees in the wrong way and he'll be unable to enjoy and healthy sex life, etc. These supposed dangers can make the task of parenting seem overwhelming, like running in an egg race your whole life.
It would be a shame if anyone missed out on the joys of parenting because of fears fed by pop-Freudian fiddle faddle.
This is showing my age, but the first two computers my family owned did not have modems. I remember when a more tech savvy friend brought over his modem and showed me how it worked. This was before the internet was known, so he showed me how to log onto bulletin boards. My first two thoughts were "That is really cool" and "Why would anyone spend money to do that?" If my third thought had been porn, I would be very rich today, but oh well. Having a conversation via bulletin boards is in just about every way inferior to having a conversation in person or over the phone. The only way it is better is that you can easily find people of similar interests to have the conversations.
So much has changed with the internet since then, but the fact remains is that chatting on computers is great for finding people with similar interests. For example, my favorite television show is Top Chef, so every Thursday morning I check out the blogs and forums to see what people are saying about the latest episode. To judge from the interest online Top Chef is a wildly popular show. However, this is not true. Sopranos was a wildly popular show and if I wanted to hear what people thought of the latest episode I didn't need to go online I could hear about it on the radio, television, around the office, and in newspapers. The fact that I have to go online to discuss Top Chef is symptomatic of the fact that it is a niche show. No one I know watches it and if I called in to discuss on a radio talk show, they would hang up on me. That is the great thing about the internet, it lets you socialize with people who share your niche interests.
However, this can give people in those niches the wrong idea about how big those niches are. For example, I used to post on a message board with a lot of queers on it. One topic that would come up is how many queers are there in the US. Many people seemed convinced that 10% of the population is queer. Every survey done shows that the number of queers in the US is between 1 and 5 % of the population, yet many were and are convinced that the real number is at least double and most likely triple what the surveys show. One of the reasons is that queers are overrepresented on the internet and if you spend alot of time on the internet you get a skewed view of the world.
From my perspective the world would be a better place if the fans of Top Chef were as easy to find in the real word as they are on the internets and if libertarian ideas were as popular as offline as they are online. Sadly, this is not the case. Similarly, it is great that Ron Paul does so well in online polls and his fundraising is going well, but he has as much chance of being elected president as I do.
My father was a political science major in college. The name of that major amuses me because politics is obviously not science. In science we try to isolate variables to understand complex systems. In politics and policy there is almost no way to do this. There are too many variables to be able to isolate one. If we raise taxes will the economy grow or shrink? No way to predict because the economy is so complex it is impossible to isolate the effect of one variable. Thus Reagan cuts taxes and the economy takes off, and Clinton raises taxes and the economy takes off.
So many things go into a growing or shrinking economy it is impossible to know what one factor will do to the economy. Plausible mechanisms and good theories and quality studies can give us an idea as to what certain policies will do but never certainty. For example, I was a big supporter of the balanced budget amendment during the "contract with America" days and firmly believed that if the deficit was eliminated interest rates would go down. I also remember President Clinton warning that if the deficit went away too soon our prosperity would be threatened. The balanced budget amendment was not passed, but deficits went down anyway. I was surprised when interest rates did not go down, and Clinton was surprised when the economy boomed. It turned out that the budget deficit's effect on interest rates was different than what I thought it would be. Interest rates turned out to be much more complex than I thought.
This complexity is common to many things. Read blogs on the left and right about income inequality and you will find many well thought out and well argued theories about why it has happened, what can be done about it and even whether it’s a bad thing. The theories vary wildly and most are probably wrong. Reading about global warming is similar. Every time I read a good article about it I change my mind. It is just too complex an issue to really know definitively what the truth is. All we have are guesses. Not all guesses are equal of course and the evidence for some guesses are better than others. But if climate researchers can't predict the number of hurricanes from year to year, how can they predict the weather in 50 years with any degree of certainty.Even if a policy produces the expected result, it is impossible to know whether the policy created the result or if it was just luck. Small sample sizes are notorious for giving false results. I know people who believe a football games outcome is determined by the way they watch the television. If their team scores while they were in the kitchen getting a beer, they watch the rest of the game in the kitchen.
Such irrationality can be easy to fall into in politics as well. Until Carter electing a Democrat president in the 20th century meant getting involved in a war. Republicans are still trying to recover from the fact that the Great Depression happened while a Republican was president. The only way outcomes can really be separated from coincidence is to be tested over and over again. Even policies that have succeeded repeatedly elsewhere are not sure to work. For example, democracy has brought great prosperity to Europe and the US, but the results for Latin America are much more mixed. This is because Latin America is different than Europe and the US. Even in the same country can change drastically over time. The US lost 50,000 people in WW1 but Wilson is viewed by many as a great president. The US has lost 3,000 in Iraq and many of those same people think George W Bush is the worst president ever.
Because of the complexities of the systems involved and the impossibility of meaningful experimentation it is literally impossible to predict what the correct policies are to address the problems a nation faces. That is why many policies have the exact opposite impact from what was intended. Communism was designed to free the working man and provide prosperity toward the masses; it accomplished the exact opposite of both those goals. World War One made the world safe for Hitler, not democracy. The New Deal prolonged the depression it was meant to end. The list could go on and on.
Given this lack of knowledge, what are the policy implications? If we wait for perfect information, nothing will ever get done and nothing will ever improve. However what we do change, we should change slowly. Governing is like parenting, it is hard to make a positive difference, but easy to screw things up. Changes should be small so if the results are bad they can be undone easily. Incremental changes are to be preferred over radical change. We should beware those who claim certainty and the fanatic who thinks he has all the answers. Modesty should characterize our political debates. When we see a problem we should map out intermediate steps to be taken rather than going to the solution in one leap.
For example, in education many want to completely destroy the public school system on the theory that things in education are so bad they can not get worse. However, if history has taught us anything (and it hasn't) it is that anyone can be killed, and things can always get worse. Thus instead of jumping straight to a complete voucher system, we should take small bites of the apple. First encourage charter schools to experiment in methods. Then open public schools to completion from each other. If these things work then we can move to a complete voucher system where private schools are treated equally with public schools.This may be a frustrating process and take a long time, but the older I get the more wisdom I see for policy makers to adopt a philosophy of "better safe than sorry".
When I was working day care I used to wonder why the level of parenting was so poor. If I could control 10 kids, why couldn't two parents control one or two? Plus the price of bad parenting falls almost exclusively on the parents at the age I was dealing with and good parenting is not much more difficult than bad parenting. Now that I am a mediocre parent instead of a good day care provider, I think I have some answers.
In parenting all of the cost is in the present and all of the benefits are in the future. For example, say your kid is throwing a tantrum over not getting a candy bar at the store. If you buy the candy bar you have bought peace for the moment at the cost of future tantrums. If you hold firm you have embarrassment now but less tantrums in the future. In daycare this is not true since if you give in to one tantrum the other kids see and you soon have ten tantrums instead of one. Also the amount of tantrums a parent will have to suffer through before the kid understands that they are not working is unknown. What most parents end up doing is rewarding some tantrums and ignoring others depending on their mood. Unfortunately random interval reinforcement is the schedule that results in the longest time for the behavior to stop. Inadequate coordination between parents also exacerbates this problem.
Parenting seems to be worse today than it used to be. However, this may seem just to be nostalgia, similar to the complaint that popular music is never as good as it was when a person was in high school. To whatever extent parenting quality has declined there are a few explanations for it.
People waiting longer to have kids and increasing economic prosperity means that people have more money to use to spoil kids. It is easier to refuse to spend money you do not have on your kids than money you do have. Also waiting to have kids means having fewer of them. Thus more money is available for each kid and it is easier to put up with one brat than three or four. Sex roles have changed, making it harder to pretend that the father is the scary authority figure. Previously, a mother could threaten a child with punishment when the father came home. Like a teacher threatening to send a kid to the principal's office. More egalitarian sex roles make women reluctant to do that.
I have been thining about this Washington Post column for the past couple of days.
In order to get to be a presidential candidate a person must be considerably above average in intelligence, but does a really smart person have an advantage as president?
The numbers are too small to be determinative but a clue should be found in history. I do not feel qualified to say much on the intelligence of 19th century presidents, but some 20th century presidents were intellectually brilliant. The ones who were clearly brilliant are T. Roosevelt, Wilson, Hoover, Nixon, Carter, and Clinton. However, far from being the best presidents they are among the worst ever. The reason may be that always being the smartest person around gives you an overly inflated view of your abilities. Thus really smart presidents overreach and leave things worse than if nothing had been done. Roosevelt, Wilson, Hoover, and Carter seem to have fallenl into this trap of overconfidence. Nixon and Clinton seem to have thought they were too smart to ever get caught, so they took stupid risks. Something to think about as election season nears.
While there are some in the reality based community who seem to think that the Iraq war will be over as soon as the US leaves, I think the most likely scenario is continued war. The model the terrorists have always had for Iraq is the Afghanistan war. After the Soviets left, there was a civil war for a few years and then Pakistan backed the Taliban which took over. The populace was so tired of war they initially embraced the peace of the Taliban, while the Taliban made Afghanistan into a terrorist haven.
Something very similar is likely to happen in Iraq with Iran taking the place of Pakistan. The difference is that since Iraq has oil wealth the civil war preceding the Iran backed takeover is likely to be much bloodier since the stakes will be higher. Also the fate of Afghanistan was a concern of just Pakistan, but Iraq has many more interested parties. Saudi Arabia would hate to have two huge Shiite states next door and would likely back with money and arms Sunni militias. Jordan and Israel would be very concerned about the prospect of an Islamic republic in Iraq and would at least build up their militaries to deal with the threat. Syria may continue to back Iran and the Shiite militias or it may seek to impose its will on Iraq as it has on Lebanon.
The most likely scenario is that after an initial phase of anarchy there will be a three sided civil war. The Sunni militias versus the Shiite militias versus the Government backed by Kurdish militias. The government forces will likely be defeated first, leading to withdrawal of Kurdish militias to Kurdistan. Then fighting between Iran backed Shiite militias and Saudi backed Sunni militias. The greater number of Shiites will probably lead to Shiite victory after which they will turn their attention on Kurdistan. This could pose a dilemma for Turkey which will want neither an independent Kurdistan nor an Iran client state next door. They will probably decide Kurdistan would be worse and do nothing. Conquering Kurdistan will be difficult but without help Kurdistan can not hold out forever. Iran would emerge as the big winner and a regional superpower. However, if the war goes on to long popular unrest in Iran could intensify and lead to regime change there. They are making a big gamble, but if they control the military with sufficient ruthlessness popular opinion will not matter.
After seeing the US leave with its tail between its legs, intervention by the UN to stop the killing will be politically impossible. The situation will be like that of Darfur, lots of western hand wringing while the bodies pile up. Also since the millions of deaths could be blamed on the US the rest of the world will have even less incentive to intervene.
I occasionally enjoy watching professional wrestling. However, since most of the great promo guys are retired and the backstage interview is a dying art, what I enjoy even more than watching wrestling is reading about it online. Likewise, many people love to read behind the scenes stories about Hollywood, or read stories by people claiming to be Washington insiders. There is something very rewarding about having inside information. I enjoy explaining to the neighborhood kids about the real reason HBK is out, and when HHH will be coming back. I also enjoy knowing that Kerry thought Edwards was weird when they first talked about the vice presidency, or that Hillary and Al Gore feuded when they first entered the White House. The same impulse that makes us pick up the tabloids in the supermarket checkout line fuels conspiracy theory. There is great satisfaction in being one of the few who knows why we really invaded Iraq, who really shot JFK, or what really happened on 9/11. Being one of the few who sees through the kayfabe, makes you an insider, which is a very powerful feeling.
I was reading some forum posts about Scientology the other day, and whenever that subect comes up my first thought is always "How could people believe something so stupid?" After some thought about it, I came to the conclusion the reason is not stupidity or irrationality, but specialization. It is irrational to learn how to fix my car, since if it ever breaks I can pay a specialist to do it for me, and the cost of paying for him to do it will be less than the cost of learning how to do it myself. Likewise, knowing too much about theology or the origin of the universe is irrational. There are people who spend their lives studying these things and the price I will pay to understand these things will generally be more than the benefit I derive from the knowledge. So I just choose an expert and believe what they believe. However, there are many experts out there and many say contradictory things. So how do I choose an expert? I could read their positions and research which is better. but to do that I'd have to become and expert which I have no desire to do. Another way is to pick an expert who is part of a group I already trust. To apply this to Scientology, one expert says that the reason you are depressed is because of an imbalance in the neurotransmitter levels in the brain. The other expert says that it is because of some spirits that attached themselves to you when your mother screamed during your delivery. The second expert also said that if you hold two cans in your hands while imagining past traumas you would feel good afterwards. The second expert was right about that so you decide to trust him about the reason for depression.
Another example in the news is the creation museum. I know a couple whose baby was born with a hole in his heart. The doctors told them the baby would need surgery to survive. The couple belonged to a church which told them God could heal their baby. The hole in the baby's heart closed suddenly without surgery and the couple ascribed this to God. This couple would be rational to believe the creation museum, over the explanations of paleontologists, since God healed their baby and what has a paleontologist ever done for them? Now most people who believe creationism don't have a healed baby, but have received other things from their religion, peace of mind, purpose, feeling of being loved and a part of a community.
This also explains how most political positions are chosen. Each party has its experts, and we choose which expert to believe based on our feeling toward each party.
I recently read an article in which Leo Dicaprio defends himself and other eco-hypocrites. He says that criticism of himself and Al Gore is just shooting the messenger and that he flies commercial as much as possible. In one sense he is right, the personal habits of people such as himself, Al Gore, Arianna Huffington, Laurie David, et al, have nothing to do with whether Global Warming is a serious problem. However, it is illustrative of the fact that whether or not Global warming is a serious problem, it will be next to impossible for anything to be done about it. Dicaprio and Gore are both fervent believers that Global Warming is a catastrophic problem that can be fixed through human action. They are also both so rich that they can comfortably afford to make large changes in their lifestyles to avoid producing any greenhouse gases. Dicaprio could only take roles that are a Prius drive away, and refuse to fly ever again. This might reduce his fees from tens of millions to merely millions, but he could still live a comfortable life. Yet he and the other eco-hypocrites are still flying around the world, and living in huge mansions. If rich people who adamantly believe in Global Warming refuse to meaningfully modify their lives, what hope is there to get skeptical people with modest means to alter their lives?
It appears that the US will lose the war in Iraq. If this occurs what are the policy implications? Regime change for countries who fund terrorism and defy the international community will be out of the question for the foreseeable future. The deaths of Americans by muslims will have been shown to change American foreign policy and frighten the American people. Going on the offensive against terrorism will have been discredited. This will result in a boon to terrorist organization and those who fund them. To counter this new threat will take dramatic action. Government policy must be changed.
The military budget must be dramatically cut. Having a large military, but not the will to fight is a huge waste of money. The budgets of the Army and Marine Corps should be slashed. The budgets of the Air Force and Navy should not be cut as much. Since, besides the UK, there is no military on earth with a navy or air force to compare with ours, deploying those branches would not risk massive casualties. This makes them a potentially useful tool.
The budget for homeland security must be dramatically raised. We will need more scanners at ports, more security at airports, more security at border crossings, more protection of bridges, arenas, and power plants. Hopefully, most of this money can be taken from the military budget.
The gas tax should be raised by two dollars a gallon. A seventy five cent per gallon raise right away and then another the next year and fifty cents the third year. This will lead to reduced use of oil in the US and a fall in the price of oil which will destabilize Iran and Saudi Arabia. A cut in the price of oil will mean less money available for those who finance terrorism.
A crackdown on illegal immigration. The wall on the border should be built, and businesses required to document immigration status of all employees. Many more immigration workers should be hired to find and deport illegal immigrants and make sure legal immigrants do not overstay their visas. A national ID card might make this easier. Tougher screening for legal immigrants from muslim countries should also be a priority.
I still hold out hope the war can be won and these policies will not need to be implemented, but the clock is obviously ticking.
Bernard Lewis wrote a very thought provoking article on a subject I have been thinking about for a few years. His conclusion:
Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.
More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and lasting.
I think it is pretty clear that they are right and the US is the paper tiger OBL thought it was. Only the stubbornness of George W Bush has kept us from slinking off in defeat from Iraq and the lesssons of Iraq have been learned well, both in Washington and the rest of the world. A government will be able to support terrorism and thumb its nose at the rest of the world and all the US will do is pointless whining and empty threats. Rogue governments have nothing to fear from the US except trade embargoes which will impoverish the people while making the regimes more secure. Potential allies know that we are a fair weather friend and can not be relied on in a fight. The implications for the Middle East are relatively easy to anticipate, the status quo and lots of it, but the implications for the US are not as clear. Will we make changes to our policies and what will they be? or, more likely, we will just carry on as if nothing has happened, like one who looks in a mirror and forgets what he has seen when he looks away.
Here is the url for the article: