Recommended Reading (2010-01-13)

– More on the cringe of the West. The Spiegel‘s Henryk Broder writes of the West as “choked by fear.”

Kings of War has a great article on the nature of “100% readiness” and why it’s an impossible goal. The 7:1 ratio of applicants to recruits who make it through training are just further proof that the risk-averse society is losing effectiveness, even if there’s a point to be made in comparison with American replacements in Vietnam.

– Apocalypse fever never stops. The last really world-consuming hype was over the disasters that awaited us due to the Y2K bug. But there will always be something else. Why do we yearn for it? Denis Dutton attempts to explain.

– David Brooks’s op-ed is a nice follow-up to my article yesterday (on a side note, is it just me or has Brooks become roughly seventy times more sane in the last year or two? I don’t understand it). “The Tel Aviv Cluster” argues that Jewish innovation and devotion has moved from the political sphere in Israel to the economic. Lest we forget:

Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.

Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.

“The Last Ace”: air power has taken on new forms, none of which include air-to-air combat. A shame, a good thing, or a little bit of both?

– Hitchens Day! Totten posts Part II of their interview. Highlights:

[On Iran] I would say, as I did with Saddam Hussein—albeit belatedly, I tried to avoid this conclusion—that any fight you’re going to have eventually, have now. Don’t wait until they’re more equally matched. It doesn’t make any sense at all.

If Iran is found to have broken every single one of its agreements, the legal case exists. It may not be a casus belli, but it may be enough for a blockade.

Unfortunately, the votes of the people inside don’t count. We know in Burma, as we knew in Iraq and South Africa, that the people are not with the regime. But if they all had been, it wouldn’t have made any difference unless international law is determined by the people in the target regime, which it can’t be. They don’t get a vote.

There’s something everyone has forgotten, and Obama has never tried to remind them. He doesn’t get credit because he’s never asked for it. Do you remember when the American crew was taken by the pirates off the coast of Somalia? It’s the same country of origin of the axe-wielding maniac who just tried to murder Kurt Westergaard in Denmark.

Someone went to the Oval Office and said, “Mr. President, you have three choices. We can have a standoff with the Somali government, we can negotiate with the pirates, or you can order the Navy SEALs to fire four shots.”

I wouldn’t like to be a newly elected president and have that dumped on my desk. He must have said, however long it took him, “Use the SEALs.”

But that’s not what impresses me. The point I’m making is not the one you thought I was going to make. What impresses me is that he didn’t give a speech later about it. If Reagan had done that, everyone would remember it. There would be hubris. “They can run, but they can’t hide.”

I like his nature. Those who need to know, know. We don’t have to make a big fucking circus out of it.

Also: Hitchens on Gore Vidal (to whom he was once heir apparent), some classic Hitchens (ridiculing Sarah Palin) and Gore Vidal making a complete ass of himself in front of Johann Hari and the Independent.