Axis of Evil, Part 2

My post on Cyprus raised some eyebrows with its reference to the relative insignificance, in geopolitical terms, of the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Looking back, I’m not surprised that this was controversial. After all, the idea that the war in Iraq is crucially important is a common background assumption in most of the debate, shared by both supporters and critics. Of course, geopolitics isn’t the only criterion of importance – the costs and benefits in terms of lives lost and saved, human rights and so on need to be discussed, not to mention economic impacts. But still, I think it’s fair to say that most people assumed that the presence in Iraq of more than 100 000 US troops, with a demonstrated capacity and willingness to overthrow governments, would make for big changes one way or another.

The most obvious candidate for such effects is Iran1. It is number 2 country in the Axis of Evil (and everyone knows North Korea was only thrown in at the last moment for rhetorical balance). It has advanced weapons-of-mass-destruction-related-program activities. And its current rulers are the same ones who humiliated the US in 1979 and who were, until Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, US Public Enemy Number 1 in the region.
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Equal opportunity for what ?

In the middle of yet another scandal about American college sports, the NYT chooses to run an editorial calling for cheerleading to be recognised as a competitive sport (It is implied, though not clearly stated, that this sport would be open only to women).

I prefer watching cheerleading to watching American football and I have no problem with claims about its athleticism and so on. And I’ll concede Allen’s arguments that injuries might be reduced if the activity were run on a more professional basis (of course she doesn’t use the dreaded word ‘professional’, anathema to the NCAA).

Nevertheless, this seems to me to be a case where unsound premises have been pushed to their logical conclusions, with predictably bizarre results. The basic problem is the mixture of higher education and professional sport, which makes about us much sense as if high school cafeterias doubled as French restaurants.

Isn’t there even one university president prepared to take up the banner of Robert Maynard Hutchins and get universities out of the entertainment industry?


No one much has noticed, but what will probably turn out to be the biggest geopolitical event of the year took place last weekend. I’m referring to the announcement by Kofi Annan of a referendum on the reunification of Cyprus to be held on 21 April this year. There’s still room for something to go wrong, but I’ll present my analysis on the basis that the referendum will be held and approved, which seems likely at present.

Why should settlement of a long-running dispute on a Mediterranean island, with no recent flare-ups, be so important ? Let me count the ways.

First, this is another victory for the boring old UN processes so disdained by unilateralists.

Second, a settlement of the Cyprus dispute would mark the end of hostilities between the modern states of Greece and Turkey that go back to the achievement of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire 200 years ago. Taking a longer historical view, the predecessor states of the modern Greece and Turkey have been at the frontline of hostilities between Islam and Christendom for 1000 years or more. By comparison with this dispute, the troubles in Ireland are of recent vintage.

Third, and most important, the positive role played by the Turkish government, until now the sponsor of the separatist government in Northern Cyprus, will greatly strengthen Turkey’s case to become a candidate for admission to the European Union. Admission of Turkey, which could be expected to follow by around 2010 would dramatically change the dynamic of Middle Eastern politics. Iraq, Iran and Syria would all have borders with Europe. With membership of the EU, Turkey would provide a model of an increasingly prosperous, secular and democratic state in a predominantly Islamic country. By comparison, the replacement of the odious Saddam Hussein with an imperfectly democratic Islamist government dominated by Shiites (the most plausible current outcome for Iraq) would fade into insignifance.

A decision by the EU to reject Turkey, despite its dramatic progress towards a fully democratic system of government, would be equally significant, but in the negative direction. The advocates of rejection, most notably the German Christian (!) Democrats would correctly be seen as being motivated primarily by anti-Islamic prejudice. This would be a big setback in the struggle against terrorist forms of Islamism.

Welcome !

My long-threatened change of hosts has finally come to pass. This is an occasion for lots of thanks. First, to Rob Corr who helped me make the move from Blogger to Movable Type, set me up on mentalspace and gave lots of technical support along the way. Second to everyone associated with – I’ve enjoyed your company. And last but not least to Brad Choate, author, among many other things, of the marvellous Textile plugin for MT, who’s now doing my hosting, and guided me carefully through the process of transferring the blog.

In the process, I’ve managed to recover a large number of posts lost in the great database disaster . There’s still a gap of a couple of months (maybe I was hanging out with GWB in the Air Force Reserve), but I have hopes of restoring the entire blog in due course.

Please update bookmarks, links and so on.


Comments from reader “George” jogged my memory to announce that I’ll be appearing tonight at a booklaunch for The Howard Years, edited by Robert Manne. Details are:
Date: Thursday 19th February
Time: 6.30pm
Venue: Avid Reader – 193 Boundary Street, West End, Queensland
Panellists: Mungo MacCallum, Ian Lowe and John Quiggin

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away

Alexander Downer, in today’s Australian

But, of course, if the international community knew early last year what it knows now about Saddam’s WMD programs, there would have been less debate in the Security Council about the appropriate action. Kay’s report shows that removing Saddam was the only way the international community could be assured that he would no longer threaten anyone with WMDs. Far from unstuck, the WMD case is proven.


Via Deejbah I found this “what kind of postmodernist are you” quiz. Of course I’m no kind, but if I were one, this would be pretty much spot-on

theory slut
You are a Theory Slut. The true elite of the
postmodernists, you collect avant-garde
Indonesian hiphop compilations and eat journal
articles for breakfast. You positively live
for theory. It really doesn’t matter what
kind, as long as the words are big and the
paragraph breaks few and far between.

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla