A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Monday, February 28, 2005 :::
The good, and the painful.

When this distinguished blog started, SARS was the big deal, and the WSJ carried a story about how scientists, working feverishly around the globe and around the clock with the aid of the internet, isolated the virus within a few months. Pressing business (lunch with Dad down here in Wilmington) prevents a search for the original post on that heroic success, but it ran along these lines. "Scientists in several countries have isolated the SARS virus after only a few months, as opposed to the several years it took to find the HIV virus, and, oh, the millenia it took before we figured out how bacteria and viruses worked. Go us."

This came to mind again with the worrying news about the avian flu, which now appears to spreading from human to human. Scientists worldwide have been monitoring the recent outbreak in southern Asia on a case by case basis, even before it was clear that it could spread among humans. They are debating furiously whether it could turn into a pandemic. And they are trying to do things to prevent it. 2 millions doses of a vaccine have been made from the blood of a Vietnamese man who died from it. This marks an improvement even on the remarkable SARS achievement. The only problem is, the vaccine may not work, and all this furious work may give us nothing more than an ability to watch it spread in real time while standing around hopelessly. Which is why prayer is still, and always will be, just as urgent as the scientific work.

And now the painful:

We are going on one week since it became clear that Islamic fundamentalists largely won the first free Iraq elections, at least in Shi'a areas. (See previous post.) The silence from the nattering nabobs of nothingsgonewrongism continues to deafen. Aside from David Frum's unblinkingly realistic assessment, none of the supporters of the war have said much of anything, and even Mr. Frum made only the briefest comments. Personally, this writer thinks his beloved homeland may be in the worst strategic shape he has ever seen, but he is known to be pessimistic on such matters.

You would not even know, however, that there are clouds anywhere in the sky by reading the war's supporters. Their silence on the elections may be the only welcome thing about the whole situation, but they are not content to just sit in embarrassed silence. They tout every rebellion in the Arab world as sign that our policy of democratization is working, and very quickly. The Lebanese want Syria out after the not-so-mysterious death of a former prime minister. Hosni Mubarak is going to allow multi-party elections for President, or at least says he is going to.

But wait: wasn't Lebanon a bewilderingly complex basket case of ethnic and religious rivalries before Syria intervened? And aren't Mr. Mubarak's chief opponents Islamic fundamentalists?

Two comments from the most important thinkers who helped form American conservatism.

From Alexis de Tocqueville, this warning to Mr. Mubarak: tyrants are most in danger of uncontrolled rebellion when they first try to loosen their grip. It is not fate. Ask Gen. Pinochet. But it happens more often than not.

And second, from Edmund Burke: Before I congatulate a man on his liberty, I must first know what he intends to do with it.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 10:49 AM



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