Saturday, August 30, 2003
Paper tiger or paper elites
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
Windows on the World? Merde has
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
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
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
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.
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
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
sabotage Iraq's future.
So there it is. Thank you for your request. Any more?
Monday, August 25, 2003
Desperately seeking voters
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
Someone who's capable of launching a class war against "the populists".
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
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.
เช่น คอมพิวเตอร์ ซอฟต์แวร์ ฮาร์ดแวร์
โดยเรียก ซอฟต์แวร์ ว่า ละมุนภัณฑ์ ฮาร์ดแวร์
หรืออย่าง จอยสติ๊ก เป็น แท่งหรรษา
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):
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:
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
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.
, please see the