Sunday, January 29, 2012

There's no off-season for the professionally offended

A professional athlete, no matter the sport, enjoys a certain time of year called the off-season. Off-seasons allow athletes to clear their minds and heal their bodies. As an added benefit, off-seasons prevent fans from becoming bored with the sport. Professional offense-takers should follow that example. Maybe their minds wouldn't be so cloudy and the rest of us wouldn't grow so sick of them.
Feminists head the herd when it comes to taking offense. They can find affront at the drop of a hat. Feminists have taken umbrage at everything from
Victoria's Secret to My Little Pony. Anything that fails to promote feminism's "strong" woman -- the bra-burning, gruff, nagging, sea hag -- renders women doting airheads suitable for serving the patriarchal society.
Okay, same song; men are pigs. What's new?
Well, something is new. The venerable
LEGO is marketing the latest indoctrination tool for a chauvinistic society bent on creating an entire generation of models for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Specifically, the LEGO Friends line of toys. According to offended feminists, LEGO Friends "limits creativity and healthy role development" and encourages "damaging gender stereotypes."
That sounds serious. But have no fear; the offended will arise to save little girls from childhood fun. In fact, the offended are
petitioning LEGO to pull the toys from distribution. The petition's initiator -- Carolyn Costin, MFT (the "T" stands for tyrant, you can decide what the "MF" represents) -- said, "Presenting slimmer, more fashion oriented LEGO people for girls falls right into the pervasive cultural messages for them to focus solely on their appearance and being thin."
Really? Are we supposed to believe that playing with LEGOs will cause a generation of young girls to want to look like their LEGOs? Children of the 70s -- I am one -- played with green army soldiers, Evel Knievel stunt cycles, and cap guns. How many of us wanted to turn green when we grew up, or jump Caesar's Palace, or become a gunslinger?
In fairness, the LEGO Friends collection is rather sugary. Girls can choose from sets such as Olivia's Tree House, the Butterfly Beauty Shop, and Stephanie's Cool Convertible, complete with a puppy for the back seat. Sickening? Infinitely! The LEGO Friends are more nauseating than shotgunning a keg of corn syrup. But for Pete's sake, they're toys!
Even if Carolyn Costin (the MFT) is correct and these toys do cause kids to desire a slimmer figure, is that automatically a problem? We're inundated with stories about what fat slobs Americans have become, even those who grew up idolizing Barbie. Another "thin is in" message might be a godsend. Anyway, what would Carolyn consider a suitable image-building toy: Roseanne Barr's Tub-O-Lard Doughnut Shop, or Gloria Steinem's Chopemoff Vasectomy Clinic?
Still, give Carolyn her due. She's quite the pro at poking her nose into other people's business; a genuine Buttinski Hall of Famer. If only there was an off-season.

Containing Iran and maintaining peace

No serious person can perceive Iran as anything but an enemy. From the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Ayatollahs' vision of a world without America, Iran habitually provokes the United States. Recent events aren't likely to warm the relationship. In fact, the Persian Gulf is simmering toward a boil.

exercises in the Persian Gulf, routine events under normal circumstances, have escalated into threats against Western powers if further economic sanctions are imposed. Iran is testing missiles and issuing warnings to U.S. warships concerning navigation in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has even threatened to blockade that strategic passage, claiming it can accomplish the task with relative ease. Toss in Iran's nuclear research and the match is as close as it's ever been to the Middle East's fuse.
The question isn’t whether Iran is an enemy or an ally; she's obviously an enemy. The question is how U.S. interests are best served: confrontation, sanctions, or bombing Iran to the Stone Age. Many adherents to the new age of Republican conservatism prefer the latter option. However, it may not be the best course.
First, this rather hawkish writer is weary of Washington's nation-building combat strategies, which send our troops into battle without the political will to achieve a decisive victory. Nation-building is a poor reason for military deployment. In fact, it's impossible until the enemy loses its will to resist. Only after the enemy's surrender did America help Germany and Japan rebuild.
Since World War II our nation has been more concerned with approval in the court of world opinion than with winning wars. Our troops won the battles in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, only to be denied their ultimate victory. Half of Korea and all of Vietnam fell to communism. The Taliban survives in Pakistan, ready to again infiltrate Afghanistan once our troops are withdrawn. We removed Hussein from Iraq, which was warranted. But we also helped install a Shiite power base -- Shia also drives the Iranian regime -- and a Sharia-based constitution. Did we engage the Taliban and Iraq to further entrench the theology that prompted 9/11?
What about the Iranian people? The Ayatollahs aren't highly esteemed on Tehran's streets. Iranians live oppressed lives based on the tyranny of a self-anointed few. Yet they indulge Western culture whenever possible, far more
often than the imams and theocrats would like to believe. Western music, movies, videos, and bikini-clad Barbie dolls are so popular they've been subject to government crackdowns. The West has potential allies among the Iranian population. Attacking Iran would damage that affinity.
Besides, destroying Iran's nuclear program won't be easy. It’s difficult to believe Iran learned nothing from Israel's bombing of
Iraqi and Syrian reactors. Their facilities aren't likely to be standing in open desert with bulls-eyes painted around them. If Iran has developed a nuclear weapon, or is progressing toward that end, their laboratories are surely shielded from air assault. Furthermore, public support for attacking Iran is tepid at best. How long before it soured completely, especially if a ground war ensued?
The benefits in bombing Iran are mitigated by the detriments. We might strike a fortified facility we can’t destroy. What if we bomb a non-weapons facility -- say an aspirin factory -- or inflict collateral damage that poisons the pro-Western sentiments among Iran's youth?
Sanctions won’t derail Iran’s nuclear ambitions either. Tyrannical regimes routinely prefer military development over citizen comforts, meaning economic sanctions will harm Iranians while having little effect on Iran's rulers. This scenario is unfolding even now in North Korea. The "people's army" holds grandiose military parades in Pyongyang while North Koreans themselves lack food and electricity. However, you'll notice Kim Jong Ill didn't starve to death in a dark room.
Even while recognizing Iran as an enemy, we might legitimately question whether a nuclear Iran poses a substantially greater threat to the United States than have other nuclear countries. Consider the Soviet Union and Pakistan. Russia was an outright enemy and Pakistan is an uneasy ally ruled by unpredictable Islamic doctrines. Yet neither country launched a nuclear attack on us or on our allies, and we've never bombed their nuclear facilities.
We have lived with nuclear weapons in the hands of enemies, both secular communist and Islamic theocracies, for 60 years. So Iran is charting no new course; they’re creating no new threat. The only way Iran would launch a nuclear weapon, or share atomic technology with terrorist organizations, is if they believe the United States wouldn't respond in kind.
To suggest a bilateral summit with Iran constitutes blasphemy in today’s conservatism. But two-party talks might prove the best option. A summit of proper tone would satisfy everyone from the hawkish neo-con to the peace-through-surrender pacifist, and render military action more palatable if it becomes necessary.
America’s history hasn't been to attack every potential source of danger. Yet Iran should face severe consequences for actual, not perceived, belligerence. Let us be blunt with Iran concerning America's position. Place the Ayatollahs on notice: if Iran’s nuclear program adopts an offensive posture, or if there’s the slightest hint their technology is being shared outside their borders, the United States will end the threat even if it means annihilating Iran. No further threats, warnings, resolutions, or sanctions will be necessary, just the response of our choosing delivered at our convenience.
The pacifists can be happy. There's no preemptive war with Iran. The hawks can be happy. Iran is on notice concerning their impending doom. Of greater benefit, we aren't further depleting our treasury and committing our troops to another war we're not determined to win.
Of course, this solution hinges on one key element; we must fulfill our threat if and when conditions warrant. Otherwise, we solidify the paper tiger perception, a perception that our politically calculated war policies in Afghanistan and Iraq have done little to dispense.
Iran's done nothing to warrant our trust. So, when the time comes for war I'll be as hawkish as General Patton. Let's join the battle with the full brunt and force the U.S. military can muster, and continue until resistance fails. But addressing possible threats with military force is a prescription for a permanent state of war, which is an unappealing proposal.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How does Romney remain the frontrunner?

How does Mitt Romney remain atop the Republican field? He's unpopular with fiscal conservatives. Despite his business-friendly reputation, conservatives perceive Romney as a statist wolf in free-market clothing; a classic northeastern moderate if not an outright liberal. He fares even worse with social conservatives. Even with his reformed positions on abortion and marriage, his checkered history on both issues breeds distrust among Republicans.

Since key elements of the GOP base are aligned against Romney there is opportunity for a reliable conservative with stamina for the long haul. Thus far no one has fit the bill.

Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry launched their campaigns with a flourish only to disappear like ice on an August sidewalk. Herman Cain briefly overtook Romney until the "9-9-9 Train" derailed amid a concocted sex scandal or Cain’s own wandering eye, whichever you prefer to believe. The sometimes Reaganesque Newt Gingrich has more lives than a cat. But political and personal baggage has rendered him thoroughly inconsistent. Newt’s campaign charged Iowa with swelling poll numbers, fell flat, and limped toward New Hampshire. He’s ascending again, and yet another personal storm looms on the horizon. Rick Santorum, it turns out, won Iowa. However, the social conservative champion lags woefully behind Romney in ultraconservative South Carolina. Only Ron Paul has managed consistent numbers relative to Romney’s. But Paul’s polling numbers don’t suggest he can overtake Mitt.

Each Republican challenger has charged the Romney beast and each has limped away licking their wounds. Why? You might point to pro-Romney attack ads or recite the media talking point about Romney being the only electable Republican. Another factor is Romney’s universal support among the GOP establishment. But there's another reason Mitt Romney gained and maintains his apparent advantage, a reason having as much to do with his opponents as with him.

Romney’s competition treats him like the favorite therefore he is the favorite. Each candidate is so determined to be the
anti-Romney that their own message is being lost in the shuffle. Republicans are wasting their time, and ours, in labeling Mitt as an unreliable conservative; conservatives already see Mitt in that light.

In contrast, Romney behaves like a frontrunner. He portrays himself as the anti-Obama, as a candidate who has moved beyond his Republican challengers. Romney’s camp realizes that a majority of the Republican base defines a
successful 2012 as sending Obama home in time for the White Sox’s 2013 home opener. While Romney capitalizes on the desire to defeat Obama the rest of the candidates are focused on beating him.

Republican candidates must develop a message other than “I’m not Romney” if they’re to affect the race. With each solid primary finish, whether or not it’s a victory, Romney solidifies his status as the nominee-in-waiting. Thus the odds increase that the Republican Party will counter Obama with a candidate in the vein of McCain, Bush, and Dole. Regardless of November’s result, the ensuing four years could prove wholly unsatisfying.