What we stopped: That’s Andrew

What we stopped
: That’s Andrew Sullivan’s headline for the story of the Taliban’s torture of a Red Cross worker found with two Bibles. Sullivan points to the Washington Post version. Here is the Sunday Times of London version:

The death sentence imposed on Saed Abdullah was unusually brutal, even by the standards of the Taliban. The mullahs declared that he should be set alight and his flaming body hurled from the tallest building in Kabul.

The Red Cross workerís crime was to be caught with two Bibles on his bookshelf. But although he was accused of converting to Christianity his real sin was to have belonged to the educated elite.

It’s a big, big world
: Nick Denton, the laziest blogger (actually, he’s just the most frequently vacationing blogger and I’m jealous) has returned to the fold to take on — smartly — us war-mongering, meat-eating, culturally self-righteous Western-loving bloggers. Says Nick: “…they beg the question: how to spread the Western enlightenment to the dark and Islamic corners of the world? Conquest? Colonization? Propaganda? Hmmm. Try prosperity.”

Right. Global poverty causes instability and war and hate and all that. Fixing it would help. But that begs the question: How?

Charity? No, that fixes starvation, temporarily and sporadically.

This requires robost trade. It requires starting real businesses in these countries with real employment and real profit. So globalization is a good thing.

But how do you start those businesses? You need skills, which means you need education. You need investment.

Should we invest? Oh, we could. But there are other, better candidates to start this bidding.

Now let us return to our Saudi friends (if this were Fox News, my favorite channel now, and I were a star there, which I’d die to be, you’d enjoy my ironic smirk and rolling eyes cued to the word “friends”) and those in other oil-rich Arab nations.

They are already getting our money and lots of it from selling us oil and investing in our world-class economy and technology and innovation.

They should be using that money to create the world’s greatest universities. They should be targeting areas of the world economy where they can win by doing something other than digging up the natural resources nature happened to give them. They should be investing in new industry in their backyard.

Look at Finland for an example. I’m reading (slowly) a story in Focus magazine (it’s not online and anyway, it’s in German) about their economic miracle. In a very short time, they found that they could be world leaders in mobile phone technology. It’s making them rich. And they’re using those riches to build their educational system and invest in new companies.

Dare I say it: Look at Israel, too, for an example of what can be done. I’ve been working with great technology companies coming from there; this is something they have built in very recent history. It doesn’t take centuries.

Trade. Education. Investment.

The Arab world can and must start to build itself using the many resources it has.

Instead, those resources are being wasted on war.

It doesn’t pay to waste your GNP buying wowy weapons from those Westerners you hate.

And of course, it doesn’t help to attack us. Bin Laden and Iraq and Iran hurt the cause of Arab advancement in thousands of ways but among them: If you tear down the American economy, you tear down your own customer and possibly underwriter. That’s not just evil, it’s stupid.

Is this our responsibility? Not first, it’s not. We didn’t cause their problems and they’re causing lots of our problems today. We can help but first they must — pardon me for sounding like my father — they must help themselves… and stop hurting us.

Behind the Buddhas
: The Irish Times has a wonderful piece traveling to the destroyed Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan: “It is a 10-hour drive from Kabul through some of the most magnificent and forboding landscape imaginable; picture God and Picasso having an argument.” There, writer Elaine Lafferty gets a tour of the ruins with the poor who live in caves there, showing her where the Buddhas were:

“That was the shoulder,” he says, or “there is a foot.” It seems as though he can name every stone, every mound of debris. He was intimate with these ancient wonders and it as though they still exist in his mind’s eye….

“Those black holes, those were the arms,” he says. “And the doves are gone. The white doves used to come here, but now there is only one. Maybe we will see it today.”

We walk a quarter of a mile to the place where the female Buddha stood. “It was so beautiful, beautiful like a girl,” Sayeed says.

She talks to a woman who lives in these caves with nothing to her name and the woman told her: “We heard about September 11th and what Osama did. We began praying that this time it would be the end of the Taliban.” [via Die Zeit]

Power talks, Islam listens
: Charles Krauthammer says we’re seeing a ripple victory out of Afghanistan: Kuwait backs away from fundamentalist extremism; Somalia and Yemen go after their bad guys before we do.

How far America has come. Remember the initial post-Sept. 11 why-do-they-hate-us angst? How could we possibly defeat this powerful, fanatical, ingrained, battle-hardened, religiously grounded enemy? We discovered the answer: satellite-guided thousand-pounders with the odd daisy cutter thrown in.

Osama knows. “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse,” he explained on that famous home video. How to win a holy war? Bomb the holy warriors — and overawe the fence-sitting spectators.

Secret Service bozo
: Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter swallows the Secret Service agent’s line, hook and sinker. Alter says that security should win out over PC sensitivies. Amen. But then he wimps out. He says he understands why Bush would be “mad as heck” if his agent’s ethnicity — Arab — kept him off the plane. I’m mad as HELL at Bush for saying that. Bush should be setting the example for caution and security; he and his Secret Service agents, of all people, should place security uber alles. Then Alter talks to the agent’s attorney, who gives him a line of bull: that they are OK with the pilot taking someone suspicious off the plane but that then he should have been allowed back on: “The agent says he gave the pilot the phone number for the Secret Service and the general White House number to verify his identity; the airline says the pilot was worried that the agent, were he a terrorist, could just have a friend or co-conspirator answer the phone. That was an overreaction.” Wrong. It was a prudent reaction. The pilot is right! The agent is a doofus! If Bush doesn’t understand that, he is a doofus! This is all about protecting US, people. No compromises accepted.

But then he talks to the agent’s lawyer, who says it’s OK for a pilot to take someone off a plane but then the

The Hindu-Muslim divide
: Beliefnet brings us a good peice on the Hindu-Muslim divide in India.

Fly almost nekkid
: Reader Anna Haynes suggests we don’t really have to fly naked. We can strip down and then wear airline-issued smocks onboard. This has possibilities. Imagine the class-consciousness we can bring to the process: First class passengers wear fashionable smocks by Armani; tourists wear scratchy, ugly paper smocks. It’s so 1984.

: Another reader writes: Duncan Fitzgerald suggests that we should restart the draft and draft only VCs. I don’t think they’d follow orders very well.