The not-totally-crazies next door

Last week, my colleague Paul had a great deal of fun exposing some of the sillier and more irresponsible things being posted over at Wizbang Blue. It did a lot of things, but the main consequence for me was to get me to meander back over there and give it another look — and found a couple of gems amidst the dross.

Our own Paul (who I have referred to in private as our “designated asshole”) had a bit of fun with their Paul (Paul S. Hooson), but lately he’s written a couple of pieces that are worth a look or two.

First, he discussed the demographic profiles of the terrorists we’re fighting. As Hooson noted, the would-be bombers in Great Britain were well-educated, middle-class or better young men.

I would quibble with Hooson’s describing this as a new development, however. The most successful terrorists have not sprung from poverty and squalor and deprivation (Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi excepted). Khalid Sheikh Mohammed attended two American colleges, earning a degree. Mohammed Atta was also a college graduate, and Osama Bin Laden was born into one of Saudi Arabia’s most wealthy families.

Poverty hasn’t bred terrorism. Poverty has bred grunts, spear carriers for terrorism. The most dangerous ones have come from the middle and privileged class. The biggest threats to us have come from what we would consider the “average” Muslims.

Hooson’s piece is valuable because it shows that this observation is starting to finally take hold.

In his other piece that I think noteworthy, Hooson notes some rather interesting developments going on in Venezuela — more specifically, some deeds being carried out by its strongman, Hugo Chavez. Hooson notes that Chavez is expanding his ties with Russia, seeking some very advanced (and expensive) military hardware and seeking stronger ties.

Hooson goes into quite a bit of detail, but he doesn’t take the final step in his analysis. He talks about how Chavez is hoping to “imprint” US-Russian relations. I’m not quite certain what he means by this, so I’m going to take his evidence and pull my own conclusions.

There has been a lot of talk about a potential revival of the “Cold War” between the US and Russia. Bellicose bellowings about missiles and missile defenses, disagreements about dealings with the Middle East and other portions of the world, accusations of the FSB (the KGB in its new name) assassinating “enemies” in England and elsewhere, and all sorts of other incidents show that while the US and Russia talk about being the bestest of buddies, there is still a lot of tension. (And it strikes me as an odd little coincidence that the nations are headed by a former KGB officer and the son of a former CIA director.)

Well, a lot of people are nostalgic for the days of the Cold War. The current situation doesn’t have the spectre of nuclear holocaust hanging, like the Sword of Damocles, overhead, but the world was a much simpler, much more comprehensible place. The threat of terrorism might not be as extreme as ICBMs, but it’s far more present. In brief, the world made a lot more sense back then.

Chavez is apparently one of those people, and he’s recalling the days when Latin America was one of the battlegrounds between the East and West. He seems to be remembering the days when simply being staunchly anti-American was a guarantor of a flow of blessings from those who opposed America, and he’s hoping to tap into the largesse. He’s not so crazy as to ally himself with our new enemies, but instead is trying to hitch his star to our old foes — in the hopes that the tensions will exacerbate themselves.

In brief, Chavez is trying to become the new Fidel Castro or Daniel Ortega — and he’s picked two fairly safe role models, as Castro is still in power (when he’s not dead or “mostly dead”) and Ortega not only survived his fall from power, but last year was re-elected to the presidency of Nicaragua.

I find myself hearing, of all things, lyrics from Billy Joel when I see things like this happening: “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

Arctic Monkeys Smarter Than Al Gore
A Simple Question