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Saturday, August 30, 2003

Paper tiger or paper elites

Lawrence Kaplan debunks a long-standing myth:

In Lebanon, for example, public support for the U.S. intervention increased after the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. But, when President Reagan backed away from the operation, that support evaporated. Similarly, when 18 Rangers were killed in Mogadishu, NBC, ABC, and CNN polls found that 61, 56, and 55 percent, respectively, favored sending more troops to Somalia. That support, too, disappeared as it became clear the president himself no longer backed the mission. Numbers like these lead the Program on International Policy Attitudes' (pipa) Steve Kull and Clay Ramsay, writing in the book Public Opinion and the International Use of Force, to conclude that "polls show little evidence that the majority of Americans will respond to fatalities by wanting to withdraw U.S. troops immediately and, if anything, are more likely to want to respond assertively." Neither Reagan nor Clinton, however, made use of the public's inclination.

Reagan and Clinton may have been reticent because the group most likely to recoil from casualties happens to be the very elites who attribute the tendency to the public. The tiss survey found that military leaders consistently show less tolerance for casualties than civilian leaders, who, in turn, show less tolerance for casualties than the mass public. (In Iraq, for example, the tiss survey showed the public would tolerate, as a mean figure, 29,853 deaths, civilian elites would tolerate 19,045, and military elites would tolerate 6,016.) Hence, when policymakers use casualties as an excuse for inaction, Gelpi and Feaver argue, "they are either tying their own hands or responding to constraints imposed by the military."

Missing from the picture, however, is another kind of "elites" that holds even more sway over the public--the media. If all that "quagmire" talk is any indication, their fatality tolerance probably hovers around 60.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Two score years ago...
Dr. King shared his dream.

While that needs no further elaboration, I'll add this anyway: This is one speech that every American English professor in China teaches to his students.

That is pride, and rightly so.

Thursday, August 28, 2003


So what if it happens every fifteen or even two years... [from WaPo]

"Every 15 years Mars looks approximately this bright," said Steven Dick, an astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

"Technically, it's closer, but practically -- ehhhh," said Elizabeth Warner, director of the University of Maryland Observatory. "The average person wouldn't notice a difference between two years ago and today. Some people think they're never going to see Mars again in their lifetime. That's not true."

I didn't know that before, did I? Now I do, and I appreciate it. That's what counts.

Will be gazing again tonight.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Remember Windows on the World? Merde has more.


The Bangkok Post reports the imminent annual military reshuffle:

Politics dictated key posts, says Surayud

Good Grief! The gall of those pols! Don't they know that the military is a separate, self-governing branch that reports to no one, least of all lowly elected policymakers? Indeed, it should be the military who dictates politics,  like the good old days ...

Human shields wanted
To protect Iraq's infrastructure, civilians and, of course, children.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Filling the void

Many thanks to Khun Alan Dawson who wrote (a while ago, actually) to comment on this post. An excerpt:

One of the top complaints of her country that my (Thai) wife voices from time to time is the lack of respect for the Seri Thai (Free Thai) of World War II. There is a curious .... what? hole? ... in the collective memory. You might argue well that this does not just apply to "heroes" (meaning those who served us well). Look at the lack of obituaries on historical figures when they die, such as Field Marshal Prapart Charusathien. So maybe both the grand accomplishments and great infamies of the past both are fated to rest in peace.

It's more a "void" than a "hole" (the latter indicating you at least have something to stand on). I was taught close to zilch about history in Thai public schools. That was probably part because the Thais had not too many chips on our shoulder (having never been colonized), part because we did have a few skeletons we didn't want to confront, and part because of that characteristically Thai ignorance.

My junior high teacher did briefly touch upon WWII, though, and here's what she proudly emphasized: Thailand straddled the war with Field Marshall Phibul and the Seri Thai in a tacit agreement to "put on a show" and thanks to that cunning, we would've emerged unscathed whichever way it went.

My question is: while that might have been true and might have worked out in the country's best interests, are we supposed to be proud of it? Can you imagine the French viewing their Vichy regime in the same light?

I don't think a no-holds-barred review of Thailand's history (with all the "heroes" and "villains") will ever be possible for various bad reasons.  But at least we are starting to give credit where credit is due--with this museum, for example.

I thank Khun Alan again for his email. Other readers are encouraged to write, too, if they have anything at all to say.

Tough request

I wouldn't consider this worthy of a post were it not for a request by a respected acquaintance.

Of all that sentimental, convoluted whining, bitching and preaching, only one sentence caught my eye.

Outspent and out-shouted a-million-to-one by the killers and their apologists, we persevere.

I'll straight the record straight once and for all: Saddam, Uday, Qusay, Chemical Ali and their thugs are KILLERS and you, Ramzi Kysia, and other morally bankrupt dupes like you are their APOLOGISTS.

You have not persevered, though, and will not in the future--thank Heaven for that.  Unless of course "persevere" means live to blather another day, in which case you will "persevere" because we non-Saddamites do not take to cutting off tongues of those with differing opinions, no matter how vile they are.

Those who really persevere are the long-oppressed Iraqis, who are now enjoying freedom thanks to the coaltion forces.

By mentioning the "brutal dictatorship" in passing, you think that will neutralize the fact the you guys "peace lovers" were in effect campaigning to prop up that very murderous regime? Sorry, man, gotta try harder than that.

When will we have peace? The war ended three months ago. We would have peace now were it not for your "resistance" chums--the desperate Ba'athist no-hopers and imported crazed terrorists who are doing everything they can to sabotage Iraq's future.

So there it is. Thank you for your request. Any more?

Monday, August 25, 2003

Desperately seeking voters

Q: What's a demagogue?

This year's estimated GDP growth of 6% will make only the rich richer, while the majority of 60-million-plus Thais will get only 780 baht each, says deputy Democrat party leader Trairong Suwannakhiri.

Wide disparities in income was real proof that the government's populist policy benefitted the haves more than the have-nots.

A: Someone who's capable of launching a class war against "the populists".


Q: What's a populist (a real one, without quotation marks)?

Democrat leader Banyat Bantadtan said his party would restructure farmers' debts, adjust payment deadlines, reduce principals and interest, and write off debts that had resulted from failed state programmes and natural disasters.

A: Someone who decries populism while adopting it himself.

And this from the "reformist" party of The Economist, AWSJ, FEER, Time et al.

No "stick of joy"

The Raja Bundits ("Royal Pundits") debunk some of the most prevalent jokes about their word coinage.

"ศัพท์ที่เข้ามาพร้อมกับเทคโนโลยีใหม่ๆ เช่น คอมพิวเตอร์ ซอฟต์แวร์ ฮาร์ดแวร์ ที่มีการนำไปพูดล้อเลียนในรายการคณะตลก ตามโทรทัศน์ช่องต่างๆ โดยเรียก ซอฟต์แวร์ ว่า ละมุนภัณฑ์ ฮาร์ดแวร์ เรียกกระด้างภัณฑ์ ขอบอกว่าราชบัณฑิตฯไม่เคยคิดคำศัพท์เหล่านี้ เข้าใจว่าเป็นการพูดเล่นกันในวงเหล้าเพื่อล้อเลียนราชบัณฑิตฯมากกว่า หรืออย่าง จอยสติ๊ก เป็น แท่งหรรษา คนก็พูดกันไปเอง ไม่ใช่มาจากราชบัณฑิตฯ"

Why wait so long? (I believed those jokes myself). Come to think of it, this is a snopes.com material, too.

Worthy of snopes.com II

Ask any foreign correspondent about Thai politics and here's what you get: Thaksin Shinawatra, the current PM, is a nationalist, populist, anti-West dictator;  By contrast, Chuan Leekpai, the previous PM, is a "reformist" saint, just the opposite in every department.


Well, the anti-West fascist has just sent troops to join the coalition in Iraq and here's what the saint has to say (mealymouthedly as usual):


"การตัดสินใจระดับนี้ต้องมองภาพกว้าง ภาพรวมถึงรายละเอียดว่ามีความปลอดภัยหรือไม่ พันธะที่ผูกพันในประเทศมีเพียงใด และค่าใช้จ่ายใครเป็นผู้ออก ดูตัวอย่างได้จากกรณีติมอร์ ที่เป็นการขอร้องของสหประชาชาติ และไม่ต้องออกค่าใช้จ่ายแม้แต่บาทเดียว เขาออกให้ทั้งหมด เป็นการแสดงความรับผิดชอบ และเราไปในลักษณะของผู้นำในภูมิภาคนี้ตามที่เขาให้เกียรติเรามา เพราะฉะนั้นต้องดูกรณีที่อื่น แม้กระทั่งที่อิรักว่า มีความต้องการของสหประชาชาติหรือไม่ และสมควรหรือไม่อย่างไร ถ้าสมควรระดับไหน จำนวนเท่าไร ภาระผูกพันที่จะมีต่อประเทศเราเท่าไรทั้งภายในและภายนอก"

This sort of decision requires looking at the big picture, including whether there's safety, obligation, and who pays the expenses. For example, the Timor case , [the deployment of Thai troops] was requested by the UN and [Thailand] didn't pay a baht of expense. They paid everything. [That] showed responsibility [It's not clear here what the subject of the sentence is supposed to be--ed] and we went as a regional leader, as they gave us the honor to be. So [the government] has to look at other cases. Even Iraq, [the government must determine] whether there is a UN request, and whether  [a deployment] is appropriate and how.  If appropriate, at what level, how many [servicemen], both internal and external obligations. [My translation from Thai]

To translate the translation: Thailand shouldn't send troops because the UN doesn't mandate it.


While that's a valid position (that I disagree with), it'd be nice if Khun Chuan would have the guts to utter it loudly and straightforwardly so the ostriches at AWSJ and FEER (the same folk, really) can know their darling's obstructionist stance on their beloved war (and now reconstruction).


At least the foreign correspondent had one thing right. Chuan opposes Thaksin in every darn thing. The Iraq issue, especially, is probably seen as a chance for his party to regain lost ground in the heavily-muslim south.

Worthy of snopes.com

It's well known in certain circles (like the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand) that Thaksin Shinawatra, the current PM, is an appeaser who coddles up to the Burmese junta to protect his private business interests whereas Chuan Leekpai, Thaksin's predecessor, is a saintly "reformer", who .... err, what did he ever do besides that evasive "reform" and fathering a child out of wedlock ...  Anyway, let's just say the FCCT crowd adores him.


So what's this? The coddler told his Burmese masters to rein in their drug traffickers or he'll do it for them (with great results) and the reformer makes an issue out of it:

การแก้ไขปัญหายาเสพติดต้องขอความร่วมมือกัน เป็นสิ่งที่ไม่มีปัญหา แต่ไม่มีสิทธิที่ล่วงล้ำอธิปไตยของประเทศอื่น ดังนั้น ต้องระมัดระวังคำพูดด้วย


ในประเทศของเราอาจจะไม่ค่อยมีใครอยากไปตอบโต้นายกฯ เพราะกลัวหรือเกรง แต่นอกประเทศเขาไม่กลัวถึงเขาจะจนแต่ก็มีเกียรติและศักดิ์ศรี

Cooperation on solving the drug problem is no problem.  But [the Thai Government] has no right to violate another country's sovereignty. So [one] must watch one's words.


In our country, there may be hardly anyone who would argue with the PM because fear or wariness. But people outside the country aren't afraid.  Although they're poor, they have honor and dignity. [My translation from Thai]

The media likes to call Khun Chuan's signature snide remarks like this  "razor". I just call it "pettiness".

Apparently the fear and wariness haven't stopped him and others like him from taking potshots at the government at every opportunity (or non-opportunity like this one). If indeed he lived in the country ruled by those "honor and dignity" fellows, he would've been put in Insein.

The "reformer" would do well to reform the age old practice of the opposition's blindly opposing the government on everything, even when it means taking the side of an authoritarian, drug-trafficking regime.

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