Harry Clarke On economics, politics & other things

September 4, 2013

Hitting Assad

Filed under: ethics,Middle East — hc @ 10:41 pm

There is no question that Syria’s Bashar Assad is one of the Middle East’s worst tyrants.  I am sympathetic to the American position here – that he should be punished for using chemical weapons against his own citizens – the videos I saw were horrific – particularly the distraught father trying to rouse his dead children to move.  That moved me!  Assad should (as The Economist argues) be asked to surrender his thousands of tonnes of such weapons and, if he refuses, be punished.  The question is how he should be punished and whether the almost inevitable collateral damage inflicted on innocent Syrian civilians is worth it.  Like tyrants everywhere he holds his own citizens as hostages. If he could be taken out cleanly I would temporarily suspend my view that capital punishment is a bad thing and endorse it.  Assad is responsible for too many deaths and for too many tortures of innocents – this was so before the current civil war commenced.  But Assad cannot be “taken out” cleanly.  That is the moral difficulty.  You can’t buy him out of this situation – e.g. by offering him a billion to resettle in Moscow – since this does not send out the correct message on his treatment of the Syrian people.  Attacking Syria may also just be ineffective in punishing Assad.  One suggestion is to go  slowly and eventually get him – the US can have a long memory.

Pursuing Assad but punishing the suffering people of Syria is a “means-versus-ends” problem like the “ticking bomb” problem. I don’t know any clear path through it. High to ensure that a penalty is imposed on extreme and abhorrent behaviour without having unfavourable consequences. Reader views welcome.



July 6, 2013

Egyptian happenings

Filed under: Middle East — hc @ 3:41 pm

This miserable piece of Mid-Eastern real estate is quite large in area (1 million sq. kms,) but mostly Western Desert. Almost all its 83 million inhabitants live in a ultra-densely (3,820 persons per square km)  populated strip along the Nile.  As befits a poverty-stricken country with a lengthy past and no obvious future it is profoundly religious with 90% of its people being Sunni Muslims and most of the rest being Christians.  It is one of the worst countries in the world for religious bigotry. This is a consequence of abysmal poverty, poor education, limited economic prospects and dumb-assed political stupidity.  Corruption is bad but there isn’t that much to be corrupt about – its a beggar’s feast with the size of the banquet declining every year.

Previous President Mubarak is ill and now lives in jail after being deposed  by freedom-loving mysogynist sleeze-balls who rape foreign journalists and who general treat half the Egyptian population (i.e. women) appallingly but in accord with what they see as religious principles that are worth killing Infidels and each other for. Mubarak had a healthy contempt for bigoted Islam but was replaced by ultra bigot President Morsi from the previously outlawed Muslim Brotherhood  who in turn now was thrown out and replaced, again at the instigation of freedom-loving mysogynist, religious bigot  mobs, by a judge appointed by the military.  Good luck to him.

So  nice to live in materialistic, infidel Australia.  No pyramids, no State religion and yes we have little history and no pyramids but we live a lot better than this miserable lot.  Oh,  yes, we also have lots of (non-sandy) desert – about all we do have in common.

A hopeful outcome of the current “coup” (the military didn’t call it that) is that relations with Israel will stabilise at the level prevailing under Mubarak.  The dispossessed Brotherhood lot are however already threatening to burn Christians and to form Taliban-like cells. This should improve things.

November 19, 2012

Israel versus barbarism

Filed under: Middle East — hc @ 8:18 pm

This cartoon from The Economist says much.   Grim humour but, despite some core truths, exaggerated with respect to the assigned symmetry of responsibilities. (more…)

September 21, 2012

Thinking clearly about immigration

Filed under: Middle East,migration,Uncategorized — hc @ 12:48 pm

We have been selective in sections of our immigration program – for example the business program discriminates on the basis of wealth.  But if one raises the case for not favouring the admission to Australia of those who come from violent societies where our  democratic values and belief in religious tolerance would get zero respect then one runs the risk of being described as a racist or a bigot.  I am neither but I do favour discrimination in our intake policy against those who (for whatever reason) oppose our open society.  This has nothing to do with racism or with, to be specific given current controversies, anti-Muslim sentiments.

I strongly endorse the comments of Graham Richardson in this morning’s Australian with respect to the violent thugs who invaded Sydney recently because someone in the United States had made a stupid, offensive film. These thugs were looking for a fight and had no reasonable gripe at all. Quote from Richardson:

“I am sick and tired of hearing these young blokes described as being disenfranchised and alienated as if they are the victims. This is rubbish. No one alienated or disenfranchised them – they chose to stand apart. Whenever they refer to the rest of us as infidels, they give the game up. If this is such a shameful country you wonder why they are so desperate to get here?”

Yes Graham it is hard to “put this genie back in the bottle” but we should at least learn from our mistakes.    Almost all Australians Muslims oppose the actions of these thugs so there is no case for restricting Muslim immigration per se.  But the character of immigrants needs to be assessed so that we do not import violent thugs who despise our society and seek to operate as outlaws within it.

One thing that needs to happen is that data on the links between crime, ethnicity, economic background, prior exposure to armed conflicts and other variables needs to be made available to immigration researchers. Political correctness, an uncritical acceptance of any type of cultural diversity and a belief that Australia bears substantial responsibility for those involved in civil conflict anywhere in the world is leaving Australia vulnerable to creating  a society most Australians do not want.

March 18, 2011

No fly zone over Libya

Filed under: Middle East — hc @ 10:57 am

I am pleased that the UN have approved a no fly zone over Libya.  It may have come too late but provides some help to retreating rebels that otherwise face the certain prospect of being massacred by the tyrant Gaddafi’s forces.  The US, Britain and France led the move – they were backed by Arab countries and China abstained – an interesting policy move from the normally non-interventionist China.

I assume the initial caution over the move stemmed from the fear of being dragged into an ungoing conflict if Gaddafi nevertheless prevails.  That fear in turn reflects unreasonable criticism of allied attempts to end tyranny in Iraq and Afghanistan.

January 31, 2011


Filed under: Middle East — hc @ 9:25 am

The events sweeping through the Middle East are unexpected. The Egyptian economy is not all bad – it has been growing at 5-7% over recent years and per capita incomes are around $6200 which is not too bad for a country of 80 million that exists on a pathetically narrow stretch of fertile land along the Nile.  However with rising public deficits after the GFC, close to 10% unemployment and high poverty levels the economic picture is not all that good either.

The current rioting in Egypt’s major cities is partly a cry for democratic reforms in an authoritarian state and partly a general cry of resentment from the disadvantaged.  The message here has been blunted by widespread looting and criminal behaviour – there are suggestions this looting may have been instigated by the hated State Police.

It is a complicated picture for the US. The authoritarian and corrupt Egyptian regime is a key to maintaining peace in the Middle East because of the Sadat-Begin Peace Treaty.  The US has provided Egypt with a sustained flow of aid funds to help sustain this Treaty (and the Mubarak regime) which helps to insure the security of Israel in the midst of a large set of authoritarian, militarist and hostile Arab states.

It will be interesting to see of a new regime in Egypt based on the premise of reform and which is both anti-American and partly influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood in fact provides better outcomes economically and politically than the current discredited regime.  Obviously it is difficult to see how a new regime will help much in promoting Israel or the US’s security interests.

January 19, 2009

This little girl wants more Nazis

Filed under: Middle East — hc @ 7:02 pm

Despite the ceasefire (which now even the Hamas terrorists have agreed to)  thousands of Palestinians marched in Melbourne yesterday condemning Israeli violence. I wonder if the caped crusader to the left of the little girl is her history teacher. For the following photo HT Tim Blair.

Meanwhile despite the usual pathetic claims Hamas do in fact seem likely to be restained by angry Palestinians who, while hating Israel, fear her.  That’s about all Israel could hope to achieve.  The cost – around 1300 Palestinians dead and 13 Israelis.  Hamas has already declared victory (!) and announced its its intention to replenish its arms stockpiles.  They will continue their mission to secure ‘holy weapons’.

January 5, 2009

Israel launches ground attack into Gaza

Filed under: Middle East — hc @ 11:02 am

The widely-predicted ground attack by Israel into Gaza occurred on Sunday.  The response of the media and mealy-mouthed politicians has been predictable.  On the one hand a section of the media, backed up by supporters of terrorism around the world, has been to attack the immorality of the Israeli attack often without mention of the past and continuing bombardment of Israel by missiles from Hamas.  This is one-eyed hypocrisy given the avowed intent of Hamas to wipe-out Israel.  A milder version of this critique is to assert that the Israeli punishment (in terms of military attack or casualties inflicted) exceeds the crimes of Hamas so that Israel is ‘overreacting’.  But Israel is not merely trying to inflict reciprocal damage on Gaza as a payback but trying to prevent the missile attacks. It can only do this by seriously damaging Hamas.

Mealy-mouthed politicians (including our own Julia Gillard and the toothless UN – this is particularly disgraceful) have participated widely in these forms of hypocrisy as well as by launching the standard response that both sides should stop the conflict, kiss and go home. This is unhelpful.

The more serious complaint about Israel’s ground actions are that it might experience substantial losses in terms of casualties as it did in its conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Hamas terrorists it is claimed have greater knowledge of the local geography and will, in their usual cowardly fashion, conceal themselves in heavily populated areas – not difficult in densely populated Gaza. The body bags created by the Hamas cowardice will weaken public resolve in Israel to continue to prosecute it.

While this is a serious problem it is difficult to come up with alternative viable responses from Israel.  Hamas is employing the standard technique of terrorists by holding a civilian population to ransom and then provoking an attack. The Palestinian casualties are due to Hamas (and its backers in Syria and Iran) not to Israel.  The Palestinian deaths are a human input to the military objectives of Hamas and provide a further radicalisation of the local surviving population in its resentment of Israel. The predicted Israeli deaths are a problem because Israel’s government - like most other civilised governments – is concerned with deaths of its citizens.  Hopefully Israel’s retrained and better-equipped army will do a better job than it dis against Hezbollah.

But despite the real probability of substantial Israeli costs I do not believe it is possible to deal in a reasoned way with Hamas.  Israel needs to make it clear to the Palestinians that electing terrorists and prosecuting an ongoing conflict with Israel is a costly strategy for Israel’s enemies.  Above all Israel needs to establish its military credibility and not be black-mailed by the terrorists.

December 30, 2008

Iranian Presbyterians to fight in Gaza against Zionism

Filed under: Middle East — hc @ 10:52 pm

These Presbyterians have offered to fight Zionism from a base in Gaza. They are part of a movement to establish democracy, women’s rights, liberal educational values, business acumen, economic progress and freedom in one of the world’s worst current trouble spots.

HT: Jihad Watch.
Progressive (often nappy-crested*) idealist followers in Syria, Yemen, southern Beirut and Sydney have voiced their support. Shaking their fingers they have warned the Zionists not to respond provocatively to freedom-fighting missiles directed at them. If the Zionists continue to fight back the Presbyterians warn that they will jump up and down and get annoyed. They won’t like the Zionists any more and will whip their asses like they did last time….err the time before that…well you know when.

* Mr Natural – below – forgot his nappy and has not yet learnt how to goosestep.

December 29, 2008

Israel attacks terrorist bases in Gaza

Filed under: Middle East — hc @ 12:16 pm

The UN have condemned Israel for ‘overreacting’ in their airstrike attacks on the Gaza Strip*.  I think in fact that Israel have acted decisively and have not overreacted at all. The attacks have real ferocity and regrettably have killed an estimated 290 Palestinians – many of them civilians.  It is a miserable outcome for a poverty-stricken people living in what amounts to a large prison camp.

Hamas provoked the airstrikes by launching sustained missile attacks on Israel.  The horror of civilian deaths is real but irrespective of any moral arguments the core issue is how else a country like Israel could respond to missile attacks from a group which seeks to anniliate it?

Likewise while the Palestinians grizzle about travel restrictions into and out of Gaza the culprit here is Hamas which sends suicide missions into Israel.

Residents of Gaza gave a political victory to the Hamas terrorist group which seeks the destruction of the neighbouring state that, in fact, exited the occupied Gaza in 2005.  The Gaza residents are now paying a terrible price for their choices. The Hamas cowards are launching their missile attacks from civilian areas inside Gaza essentially using the civilians as human shields.  To some Hamas seem to be preventing the treatment of injured Palestinian civilians in Egypt while to others Egypt has closed the border with Gaza. Both Egypt and Jordon generally don’t have much of a stomach for the short-sighted and callous Hamas stupidity.

Israel is asserting a display of military might that reminds its enemies that it does have teeth after the seemingly bungled dispute with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 – hence the decisiveness of the current attacks. Hezbollah like Hamas is a terrorist organisation committed to the destruction of Israel. Indeed the current Israeli successes are reminiscent of the early claimed successes against Hezbollah.  Hopefully the current tit-for-tat efforts will have the longer-term conclusion of forcing Hamas to negotiate a new more binding peace. The more damage that can be inflicted on Hamas the greater the likely success.  indded the more damage that can be inflicted on the terrorist Hamas the better the prospects for the Palestinian people.

* Our acting PM Gillard has unhelpfully urged both sides to avoid fighting although, to be fair, she does recognise Hamas as the origin of the current problems. The real morons of the left adopt the usual ‘sins on both sides’ posture which again suggests Israel has no right to oppose those who seek to destroy it.

May 2, 2008

Palestinian self-inflicted pain

Filed under: Middle East — hc @ 11:29 am

I found this article from Commentary, ‘1948, Israel, and the Palestinians’ of interest. I am always surprised by the vehemence of the left’s hatred for Israel.

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