Morning Report: June 1, 2006

Rewards and punishments, earthly and otherwise. A certain editor explains his journey from collectivist naivete to "equal opportunity" liberalism, while economic weapons are deployed by the good guys and the bad guys; and an interview prompts reflections on unorthodox forms of deterrence.

Flemming Rose: Why I published the Mohammed cartoons. Spiegel: 'The worldwide furor unleashed by the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed that I published last September in Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper where I work, was both a surprise and a tragedy, especially for those directly affected by it. Lives were lost, buildings were torched and people were driven into hiding. ... Europe today finds itself trapped in a posture of moral relativism that is undermining its liberal values. An unholy three-cornered alliance between Middle East dictators, radical imams who live in Europe and Europe's traditional left wing is enabling a politics of victimology. This politics drives a culture that resists integration and adaptation, perpetuates national and religious differences and aggravates such debilitating social ills as high immigrant crime rates and entrenched unemployment. As one who once championed the utopian state of multicultural bliss, I think I know what I'm talking about. ... The role of victim is very convenient because it frees the self-declared victim from any responsibility, while providing a posture of moral superiority. It also obscures certain inconvenient facts that might suggest a different explanation for the lagging integration of some immigrant groups -- such as the relatively high crime rates, the oppression of women and a tradition of forced marriage.' Read the whole thing at the link. (Spiegel)

US/Iran talks. Morning Report confesses that it has not been diligently following every twist and turn in the tedious saga of the nuclear negotiations (or nonnegotiations) between Iran and the United States. Will the two governments parley, or won't they? Should they or shouldn't they? Will it be a group thing with the UN or the EU, or just a one-on-one affair? Did Condi say no when she meant yes, or yes when she meant no? Morning Report has little patience with the diplomatic smokescreen of vague and contradictory statements coming from Washington and Tehran; but it seems likely at this point that whatever official pronouncements may be issued, the two countries are headed for a showdown. Debka agrees:
Condoleezza Rice spoke the language the European nations, Russia and China wanted to hear before she met their representatives in Vienna Thursday, June 1, to discuss their incentives package for cajoling Iran into abandoning its proscribed nuclear activities. The US secretary of state said the US was willing to join European allies in direct talks with Iran - provided Iran abandoned its uranium enrichment program. Tehran predictably dismissed the offer as propaganda and presenting no “new and rational solution” to Iran’s nuclear case. The enrichment program would go on, declared Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Rice had her answers ready for that response. Anticipating an Iranian brush-off, the US has already begun implementing its own package of sanctions. As Rice put it, “We’re prepared to go either way.” She also made it clear that the United States would not “swear off ever using military action.”

The two parties are therefore closer to a collision course – first financial and, further down the road, military - than to dialogue. ...

Debka goes on to explain the financial weapons at Washington's disposal:
Washington has also taken into account that its allies will not go along with stringent penalties for Iran’s refusal to give up activities that could lead to the production of a nuclear weapon. Russia and China are too heavily staked in business with Tehran to go along with this measure. And even if UN financial sanctions became feasible, it would take two to three years for them to bite. The Islamic republic has piled up $50 billion in reserve assets from rocketing oil prices, a solid cushion against real damage during the period it needs to complete its weapons programs.

With this timeline in mind, the US Treasury has begun activating a go-it-alone program targeting the personal finances of Iranian officials in foreign banks and government transactions, with a view to cutting the regime’s access to foreign currency and global markets and its isolation in the regime in the international financial community.
As DEBKA-Net-Weekly 254 reported on May 19:
Three weeks ago, American emissaries began quietly visiting banks and financial institutions in West Europe and Asia. They showed the heads of these institutions lists of Iranian firms, industries and private tycoons associated in one way or another with Iran’s nuclear effort. They then indicated that American banking and corporate doors would slam shut against any financial bodies continuing to do business with the blacklisted Iranians. Our sources report that the Americans were pleasantly surprised by the success of this quiet campaign. Many of the banking and financial bodies lobbied in this way were quick to cut their ties with the named Iranians, with immediate impact: A loud outcry arose in Tehran’s central bazaar where most business with foreigners is contracted.
During this period, Iran has activated assets of its own – the surrogate terrorist groups the Islamic Republic maintains across the Middle East. ...

The article goes on to explain that Tehran is increasing its terrorist activity in southern Iraq and throughout the country, while strengthening Hamas for further attacks against Israel. Hamas and Fatah, for their part, may set aside their differences in the interests of forming a stronger alliance with Tehran. Read the full article at the link. (Debka)

Seraphic Secret on the divestment campaign. Robert Avrech at Seraphic Secret: 'This important note, with some shocking revelations, just came in from a concerned Christian reader who wishes to remain anonymous. Perhaps the most stunning revelation here is that someone who is working towards divestment, has been mailing out Norman Finkelstein's most recent book to hundreds of Commissioners of the Presbyterian Church USA's General Assembly. Finkelstein, for those who might not be aware, is a notorious antiSemite who camouflages his pathological hatred under the guise of a benign academic antiZionism. He and Noam Chomsky are twin Kapos. Whomever is mailing out this loathsome creature's book is indeed making use of the most diabolical of antiSemitic tactics: using a Jewish traitor against his own people. The second part of this piece is a fine article by Larry Rued, a concerned Presbyterian, who has been tracking and fighting this shameful divestment for quite a while.' The post details the anti-Israel stance of the Presbyterian Church, USA, and the tactics of the anti-Israel parties. Avrech's anonymous friend wishes to remind us that the anti-Israel elite does not speak for the majority of Presbyterians. (Seraphic Secret)

Ledeen on Ahmadinejad's Spiegel interview. Iranian chief thug Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was interviewed by Spiegel recently, and Michael Ledeen has some thoughts: Ahmadinejad may be an "uncultured fanatic", but he proved more than a match for the witless German journalist. 'It’s astonishing to watch the Spiegel interviewer fall into one rhetorical trap after another. In many ways, the interview is noteworthy for its exposure of the fecklessness of a German interviewer facing an Iranian bully.' And Ledeen touches on a key concept: 'The use of “humiliation” tells us a lot about the way the mullahs think about the world; they look at international events as a matter of domination or humiliation, and he hammers away at this theme: “Saying that we should accept the world as it is would mean that...the German people would be humiliated for another 1.000 years. Do you think that is the correct logic?”' Vital Perspective links to a study by Laurent Murawiec from Bar-Ilan University (pdf), which tackles the riddle: How do you deter the dead? Looking at some historical parallels from Europe, Murawiec sheds some light on the jihadis as modern-day Gnostics (the original Gnostics were a lot creepier than some of us realized), and concludes: 'One martyr will have followers, ten martyrs will be admired and emulated. One thousand dead martyrs who died unheralded die in vain. If Ahmadinejad and others die in vain and uselessly they will not die as martyrs but as slobs. For the Gnostic, for the jihadi, his death is the only thing that matters to him: take that away and nothing is left.' (various)

Commentary. In my signature at the Euston Manifesto, I asserted: "The degradation of Western civilization is not related to the degradation of organized Liberalism; they are, in fact, one and the same." Here I will add that we are seeing the development of two liberalisms, divergent from and antithetical to one another: one, the "liberalism" of the Left, which sees only evil in those institutions most familiar to it (that is, the pillars of Western politics and civilization); and the other, a hopeful and living liberalism, which sees endless possibilities for growth, betterment, and creativity in the future. It is to this "living liberalism" that I subscribe; and I believe it is this vision that can inspire the coming generation to make the sacrifices that the Long War will demand of it.

Cross-posted at Dreams Into Lightning - TypePad.