The Book!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

McCain in the Early Going

I think I've said it before in this space, but in case I haven't: my prediction for the next US presidential race is John Edwards versus John McCain.

The first principle to remember here is that Democrats almost never nominate the early frontrunner. Republicans almost always do.

Obama looks to me like a flash in the pan. He doesn't have the resume, and his inexperience is likely sooner or later to show. Hillary Clinton has no growth potential and too many negatives; and her support for the Iraq War will kill her with Democrats. I suspect John Edwards starts out with few enemies in the party, thanks to his upbeat run last time. Everybody's second choice: that's a good place to be. He should do well in Iowa, and he stands a good chance to clean up in the Southern primaries. Obama and Clinton may wipe each other out in the big "liberal" states.

Among Republicans, Guiliani is probably too liberal to win the nomination. He may also be rusty.

And I expect McCain to ultimately win the contest with Edwards. If Iraq goes well, as a Repuublican, he is more likely to get the credit. If, on the other hand, it goes badly from here, he is lucky enough not to be closely identified with the current administration. And he might appeal, with his military background, as a steady hand on the tiller in such a situation. Just as Eisenhower once did, or Nixon, in their day.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas Eve

To mark this Christmas, ICM has produced a poll showing 82% of Britons believe religion "is a source of division and tension between people."

In a sense it is--and this is why it is currently unpopular. It nags at us. It reminds us we are not doing as we should.

"I come not with peace, but a sword."

Not resting from mortal strife, in an Internet Cafe in Butuan, Agusan del Norte, the Philippines.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Achoo!

In the Philippines, struggling with a bad cold, and poor internet facilities. This site might be quiet for a while. Check back, but go have a life.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Viet Nam War

Visiting the War Remnants Museum in Saigon, I can only feel that the Vietnam War was a terrible, terrible mistake. With great bloodshed, it accomplished nothing.

But whose mistake? America's, or Vietnam's? After all, if the Viet Minh and Viet Cong had just laid down their arms, wouldn't the country be in about the same position today--but more prosperous?

It seems to me the crucial factor that tripped the Americans up--that they did not understand, that led them to make wrong decisions--was the Asian issue of face. Even if the Vietnamese believed in the American system, face was against the Americans. And a Vietnamese will die rather than lose face.

The problem was originally with the French. Vietnam might be content to accept French tutelage so long as France had prestige internationally--so long as it had face. But when France was beaten by Germany and Japan, and had to have Vietnam handed back to it by Britain and China, it lost all face in Vietnamese eyes. For Vietnam, a return to French control would then be a terrible loss of face for Vietnam, especially in comparison to the Japanese and Chinese. Intolerable.

The US then had the misfortune and lack of savvy to back the regime France left behind. It was never going to go right with the Vietnamese. Korea was a very different story: there the Americans were clearly the victors over Japan, and so there was some prestige for Korea in accepting American patronage.

Had America understood face, they would probably have, wisely, stood back and let the French fail on their own, and bit their tongue and accepted the new Vietnamese Communist government. They could have won it over--Vietnam and China do not make natural allies.

But that was a mistake Eisenhower made. Not Johnson, not Kennedy, and not Nixon. I suspect when the chips all fall, history will see Eisenhower as a great bungler of American foreign policy.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Reunification Palace

Good evening from Vietnam.

Today I went to see the "Reunification Palace," which had been the "white house" of the presidents of South Vietnam until 1975.

I was expecting to see a display of decadence. I had been told to expect this by an Australian academic I met in Bangkok some years ago, who had just come from a tour of Vietnam. He and his family said they had been shocked by the tasteless extravagance they had seen there.

In the event, it did not really strike me as over the top at all--not for a nation's seat of government. Sure, the official halls were lush, but that's an issue of national prestige. And no lusher than, say, the halls of University of Toronto. When it came to the actual quarters of the first family, they were just three rooms--a master bedroom, one shared bedroom for the children, and a dining room. This is decadent luxury? I live in larger and more luxurious quarters; and so, I warrant, do most Australians. Certainly any Australian academics past graduate school. The president's office--the local equivalent of the "Oval Office"--was smaller than that of your typical corporate president, in my experience, or, say, that of the president of a university.

There were also, it is true, in the more public areas, a bar, a small movie theatre, and a small dance floor.

Was this over the top? I don't think so. No more than you'd see it a typical private club; which is exactly what it was, for the country's high officials. Indeed, it was no better rigged out than the average faculty club.

In other words, this Auistralian academic seems to have been criticising as wildly extravagant a lifestyle quite comparable to his own.

Leaves me wondering. Does modern higher education serve to make you blind to the real world around you? Is it actually a matter of indoctrination, something like a cult?

Or was his objection, possibly, to someone of a lower class acting uppity?

I suspect all of the above.

Friday, December 01, 2006

All Bets are On

As noted previously, I'm going to be on the road, or rather, in the air, on the other side of world as the votes come in from the Canadian Liberal convention. I'm not the blog to watch for breaking news.

But this is interesting: Pinnacle Sports is taking bets online on the outcome.

This little variant of the free market, the betting pool, generally proves to be very accurate.

And the betting pool gives the best chance to Bob Rae. Stephane Dion is close behind; Ignatieff is fairly far back at third likeliest leader.

Too bad; I will be sorry not to see what Ignatieff might be like as Liberal leader.

But if I were voting, I would probably be voting, myself, for Dion.