Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Reading this week

PEACE KILLS P.J. O'Rourke is almost as insightful as he is hilarious. Good stuff! Still waiting to find a unifying theme or some sort of thesis statement, but in the meanwhile it's a pretty good ride.

Probably I'll leave a few comments later, but for now, here is a representative sample from the first chapter about why we Americans just don't like dealing with foreign policy:

Being foreigners ourselves, we Americans know what foreigners are up to with their foreign policy—their ven­omous convents, lying alliances, greedy agreements, and trick-or-treaties. America is not a wily, sneaky nation. We don’t think that way. We don’t think much at all, thank God. Start thinking and pretty soon you get ideas, and then you get idealism, and the next thing you know you’ve got ideology, with millions dead in concentration camps and gulags. A fundamental American question is “What’s the big idea?”

Americans would like to ignore foreign policy. Our previous attempts at isolationism were successful. Unfortunately, they were successful for Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan. Evil is an outreach program. A solitary bad person sitting alone, harboring genocidal thoughts, and wishing he ruled the world is not a problem unless he lives next to us in the trailer park. In the big geopolitical trailer park that is the world today, he does.

America has to act. But, when America acts, other na­tions accuse us of being “hegemonistic,” of engaging in “unilateralism,” of behaving as if we’re the only nation on earth that counts.

We are. Russia used to be a superpower but resigned “to spend more time with the family.” China is supposed to be mighty, but the Chinese leadership quakes when a couple of hundred Falun Gong members do tai chi for Jesus. The European Union looks impressive on paper, with a greater population and a larger economy than America’s. But the military spending of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy combined does not equal one third of the U.S. defense budget. The United States spends more on defense than the aforementioned countries—plus Russia plus China plus the next six top defense-spending nations. Any multilateral mili­tary or diplomatic effort that includes the United States is a crew team with Arnold Schwarzenegger as coxswain and Nadia Comaneci on the oars. When other countries demand a role in the exercise of global power, America can ask another fun­damental American question: “You and what army?”
Ah, P.J., you just slay us with your war stories. Want more? There is an extended excerpt over at The Atlantic.

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